Indian Ocean a great asset to India, has been an ocean of peace: NSA Ajit Doval

Security forces, agencies and all stakeholders in maritime affairs met to address maritime contingencies which require urgent and coordinated response.

The NSA asked all the agencies and stakeholders in the maritime sphere to work together in line with India's approach of growth and development. (ANI Image)

To ensure a seamless approach to India’s maritime security cutting across geographical and functional domains, security forces, agencies and all stakeholders in maritime affairs met to address maritime contingencies which require urgent and coordinated response.

Emphasising the salience of maritime security in an increasingly complex and challenging landscape, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Thursday said, “In view of geopolitical developments, seas have become much more important.” The NSA asked all the agencies and stakeholders in the maritime sphere to work together in line with India’s approach of growth and development. Highlighting the example of UNCLOS, NSA said that nations cannot take decisions unilaterally and underscored the need for seamless coordination.

“The trajectory of this nation is well defined; we know where we are going. And when our time comes, India will not be able to become the power it deserves to be unless it has a very strong maritime system. This is perfect timing for it,” said the NSA.

According to the NSA with the changing geopolitical scenario, the Indian Ocean which is a great asset to India has been an ocean of peace and is now becoming more competitive. He urged all to be vigilant and protect it.

“With the cardinal principle of security, our vulnerabilities are directly proportional to our assets. More we develop more assets we create, more prosperous we get, greater would be vulnerability and greater would be needed for security.”

He also talked about the neighbouring countries in the region and cited the example of how countries came together recently for the Colombo Security Conclave which was held to tackle maritime threats in the Indian Ocean.

Today’s meeting was attended by senior officials from important central government ministries, security forces and all agencies dealing with maritime affairs. Also present were maritime security coordinators from 13 coastal states and UTs. And the Chief of Indian Navy Admiral R Hari Kumar and Deputy NSAs from NSCS were present too.

Several crucial policy issues related to the maritime security including security of ports, and to identify gaps the stakeholders reviewed existing policies and orders on maritime security, standard operating procedures for maritime contingencies, and creation of a maritime database.

In the last few years, the Government has given special attention to the maritime domain under the SAGAR initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in 2015, India’s Indo-Pacific Policy in 2018 and focus on the blue economy.

Therefore the constitution of the MAMSG by bringing together diverse stakeholders at the Centre and coastal States/UTs is a significant step.

More about Multi-Agency Maritime Security Group (MAMSG)

To discuss important policy matters which impact maritime security, the first meeting of the MAMSG was inaugurated by the NSA. It was chaired by the National Maritime Security Coordinator Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd). He is India’s first NMSC and took charge earlier this year in February.

In 2021 November, the proposal for the creation of the NMSC post was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The NMSC office is under the National Security Council Secretariat headed by NSA Ajit Doval and Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd) was appointed as the first NMSC. His role is to ensure cohesion among various stakeholders – Indian Navy, the Coast Guard, security agencies, the coastal states and the UTs.

Importance of MAMSG

Following the 26/11 the government has been taking several steps to ensure there are no more attacks through the coastal route. There are several layers of maritime surveillance in place.

These steps are taken to ensure coastal and maritime security is critical for India as it has a vast coastline of around 7,500 kms. And with the growing threats in the region, especially Chinese belligerence, efforts are made to further strengthen maritime security and surveillance of India’s coastline and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The MAMSG is envisaged to provide a standing and effective mechanism to ensure coordination of all aspects of maritime security including coastal and offshore security, as well as fill the institutional, policy, technological and operational gaps in meeting present and future security challenges. Importantly, the group will also address maritime contingencies requiring an urgent and coordinated response.

With the setting up of the NMSC, a longstanding recommendation of the 2001 Group of Ministers (GOM) Report on ‘Reforming the National Security System’ has finally been implemented.

According to officials the MAMSG will provide an effective mechanism to ensure coordination of all aspects of maritime security including coastal and offshore security. And will help in plugging the operational and technological gaps needed to meet the emerging security challenges.

India is a maritime nation

It has interests that are beyond the country’s maritime zones. Almost 95 percent of India trade by volume is through the sea route involving 12 major and around 200 non-major ports.

India’s 90 percent hydrocarbon requirements are met through seaborne imports and offshore production.

Blue economy

As India’s economy grows, so will its dependence on maritime resources and sea borne trade. Marine fisheries sector is one major contributor to the economy and livelihood of the fishing community. There are almost three lakh fishing vessels.

At the inaugural meeting, a number of crucial policy issues on maritime security were taken up, including mapping of existing orders and policies on maritime security to identify gaps, review of standard operating procedures for maritime contingencies, security of ports and coastal infrastructure, creation of a national maritime database, capacity building of coastal States and UTs, promotion of blue economy, etc.

A separate session was dedicated to discussion with State Maritime Security Coordinators.

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