Maritime Dimensions of India’s Security ––

(NAVY FOUNDATION –– DELHI CHARTER –– 5 & 6 January 2001)


As a curtain raiser to the forthcoming International Fleet Review, the Delhi Charter of Navy Foundation, which is an association of retired naval officers, held a two day seminar on the Maritime Dimensions of India’s Security, on 5 and 6 January. The venue was the newly built naval officers’ mess ‘Varuna’, which is tastefully designed and furnished.

The Seminar was divided into three sessions –– Security Environment in the Early 21st Century, Constituents of Sea Power and Maritime Dimensions –– Past, Present and Future. The Defence Minister, George Fernandes inaugurated  the proceedings. The speakers were VAdm KK Nayyar, Prof A Narasimha Rao, Dr Manoj Joshi, Prof PV Indiresan, VAdm PS Das, RAdm KR Menon, VAdm MP Awati, VAdm I Bedi and Adm VS Sekhawat, a former CNS. The sessions were chaired and moderated by Gen VP Malik and Prof MGK Menon. The Navy Chief Adm Sushil Kumar made the closing address.

In his short but pointed opening address, the Defence Minister alluded to the period of 50 years since Independence as, "the Indian coastline is an open invitation to subvert India’s security as the national leadership has shown callous indifference on the issue in the past". The Task Force on Border Management appointed in the wake of the Kargil War, has made a shocking revelation that threats from the sea had not figured in the thinking of the nation’s leadership, even once in 50 years of our freedom. Despite five wars and 53 years of independence, the concept of National Security is yet to acquire a place of even moderate visibility in areas of national concern. He fervently hoped that such seminars would help in creating awareness of our maritime assets and liabilities not only among the general public but also among the administrators and policy makers.

The speakers on the security environment in the foreseeable 25 years brought out the challenge, which China may pose to the US paramountcy, as a sole global power and its consequent effects on Asia/India. The increasing world trade by sea, the mineral wealth of the oceans and the energy security would heighten maritime activity in the Indian Ocean, with possible conflict situations among the littoral and outside navies including USA and China.

India’s unique position in the Indian Ocean and emergence as a major regional economic and military power therefore calls for a stronger and more modern Navy. The future thrust of the military is also changing from static warfare to power projection far away from the homeland and India’s area of interest would lie from the Straits of Malacca in the East to the Gulf of Aden and Africa in the West. Unlike the Army and the Air Force which can be equipped and augmented in a span of a year or two, the building of a navy takes ten to 15 years and its planning has to start 20 to 25 years in advance. These are the home truths, which our policy planners must keep in view because a Navy as a significant component of Sea Power is no luxury –– it is a need.

Prof Indiresan succinctly brought out the 'brawn', 'brain', 'bacon' and 'brahman' of sea power. Whilst brawn is the physical naval power, the brain is information technology, the bacon being economic resources and brahman the trained man power. The other speakers developed on this theme and described how India is endowed with the potential to harness all these factors, highlighting the need for proper planning and physical effort.

The past was recalled –– how we lost out on account of the insufficiency of maritime power in the 16th century, which enabled the Europeans first to gain a foothold and subsequently to occupy and colonise all littoral states in our region of interest. The needs of the future require modernisation and expansion of the presently modest Indian Navy. The exercise of the nuclear option and unquestioned versatility and durability of the submarine as a vehicle of nuclear deterrence, leaves no option but to invest larger resources on building our maritime assets –– of which sea power is the cutting edge.

The Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar in his closing address, emphasised the role of the navy in building bridges of friendship across our sea boundaries. The navy can play a crucial role in keeping peace and harmony in areas though beyond but of vital interest to us. He expressed confidence that as awareness in security affairs grew and improvements in higher defence management were brought about, the Navy would secure an important and substantial place in India’s pursuit of greatness.

The Seminar was very well organised with an eye for detail and IDC congratulates both the Delhi Charter of the Navy Foundation and the Naval Headquarters for putting up such a fine show.

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