'Speed of expansion of certain maritime presence triggering new arms race'

Eye on China, defence secretary takes aim at maritime expansion, illegal fishing at Maritime Conclave
File photo: Defence secretary Ajay Kumar. (ANI)
File photo: Defence secretary Ajay Kumar. (ANI)
Updated on Nov 08, 2021 06:02 PM IST
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ByGerard de Souza

Defence secretary Ajay Kumar on Monday hit out, without directly naming China, for what he said was an ‘expansion at an unprecedented rate’ of conventional navies in the Pacific region which he said was prompting “new genre of arms race” whose effects were being felt far beyond the region.

Speaking at the inaugural event of the Goa Maritime Conclave, hosted by the Indian Navy, currently underway in Goa and being attended by the naval heads of 12 Indian Ocean countries, Kumar also made a special reference to “illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, being undertaken in International waters off the coast of India, calling for action against the practice -- something that Chinese boats have been accused of.

The theme for this year’s edition of GMC is “Maritime Security and Emerging Non-Traditional Threats: A Case for Proactive Role for IOR Navies” and included threats like terrorism, narcotics, piracy, human and drug trafficking besides also IUU fishing.

“While we talk of non-traditional threats, we cannot ignore the impact of expansion at an unprecedented speed of conventional navies in the Pacific. We are also witnessing the enhancement of certain maritime presence in passages in our region that do not always seem innocent. The negative effects of such expansion are felt beyond the pacific. Though it is early to conclude, such expansion has triggered others to acquire traditional capabilities and thus to start a new genre of arms race,” Kumar told the gathering that also included foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Karambir Singh and a host of delegates from the thirteen countries of the region.

“India will work with all marine nations for peace in the region, standing for a rules-based world, India will continue to oppose the tenets of aggression on land and on the sea. Maritime domain is so vast and strategies are so diverse that going alone is not an option. India remains engaged in most of the important exercises and activities in the Indo-Pacific and the Western IOR for a long time,” he added.

“I would like to make special reference to the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which undermines national and regional efforts to achieve the goals of long term sustainability and responsibility. Moreover, IUU fishing greatly discriminates against those who act responsibly, honestly and in accordance with rules. IUU fishing, mostly from outside our region, is threatening marine biodiversity, food security for communities and the livelihoods of those involved in fishing,” Kumar said.

“In order for our nations to achieve high growth, it is imperative we secure a free open and inclusive maritime region where legitimate interests of all nationals must be protected. For a secure and prosperous region, it is not only important to adhere to international rules and laws but also it is a necessity to understand each other’s interests and sensitivity and act accordingly. India hopes that its maritime neighbours would understand and are sensitive to India’s legitimate maritime security concerns,” he added.

Fishermen from India’s west coast, including fishermen from Goa and Maharashtra, have complained of predatory and environmentally damaging practises undertaken by Chinese fishing boats deep into the Arabian Sea which they say is spelling ruin for their livelihoods.

The 3rd edition of Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) – 2021 is being held from November 7 to 9 under the aegis of Naval War College, Goa. The GMC is Indian Navy’s Outreach Initiative providing a multinational platform to harness the collective wisdom of practitioners of maritime security and the academia towards garnering outcome-oriented maritime thought.

Chiefs of Navies/heads of maritime forces from 12 Indian Ocean littorals, including Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand are in attendance.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021