Boosting our maritime capabilities crucial: NSA Doval at security group meeting
NSA Ajit Doval said that security related to different areas such as borders and other parts of the country are very different.
The strengthening of India’s maritime capabilities is crucial to cope with growing competition and potential clashes in the Indian Ocean, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said on Thursday.
Seamless coordination between agencies responsible for protecting maritime interests is also necessary for bolstering India’s maritime security apparatus, Doval said in his opening remarks at the first meeting of the Multi-Agency Maritime Security Group (MAMSG).
India’s responsibility as a leading maritime power is important and this stature requires a strong maritime apparatus, he said.
The meeting, which brought together senior officials from all 13 coastal states and Union territories, the Indian Navy and several central agencies, was chaired by national maritime security coordinator, vice admiral (retired) G Ashok Kumar. Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar was in attendance too.
Doval described the Indian Ocean as a “great asset” of India and said the country’s vulnerabilities are proportional to its assets.
Referring to the changing geopolitical scenario, he said “the Indian ocean, which has been an ocean of peace, is gradually becoming competitive”.
“We see a potential of having a clash of interest, we need to protect it and be vigilant”, he added.
Doval further said, “The more we develop, the more assets we create, the more prosperous we get, the greater would be the vulnerability and the need for security in the maritime domain.”
The NSA emphasised the need for seamless coordination between different agencies since maritime security has acquired greater importance in an increasingly complex and challenging landscape.
“The trajectory of this nation is well defined. We know where we are going. And when our time comes…we as a nation have to be strong. India will not be able to become the power it deserves to be unless it has a very strong maritime system,” Doval said.
His comments came against the backdrop of mounting concerns across the Indo-Pacific over China’s growing assertiveness as well as the Chinese navy’s activities in the Indian Ocean.
The issue of greater coordination between state and central agencies responsible for maritime security has been in focus since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, when a group of 10 Pakistani terrorists entered the country’s financial hub by commandeering a fishing vessel.
Doval too referred to the Mumbai attacks while underscoring the importance of the National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC). The NMSC is the focal point for creating synergy in maritime security and fostering coordination in different areas, including operational action, he said.
Security on the high seas and the country’s economic well-being are inextricably linked and all stakeholders in this field must work unitedly, he added.
Doval said the importance of land and maritime borders are very different, noting that maritime boundaries cannot be fenced and disputes at sea are usually resolved in line with international norms and laws, whereas most land disputes are bilateral in nature.
He also referred to the importance of regional initiatives such as the Colombo Security Conclave – which brings together India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Mauritius – for cooperation among like-minded countries in the maritime domain and said this can be further expanded.
Doval listed the denial of access to foreign intelligence agencies seeking to conduct espionage activities as a major challenge. He called for devising standard operating procedures and said all stakeholders and agencies should speak the same language while dealing with maritime security challenges.
There is also a requirement for a common operational picture, and “access to data banks that we have at various levels is very important”, he added.
Vice admiral (retired) Kumar was appointed as the country’s first national maritime security coordinator after the post was created in November last year to ensure coordination between various agencies responsible for maritime security.
The post was created in line with the recommendations of the 2001 group of ministers’ report on “Reforming the National Security System”.