SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy

Issue No. 3 | February 1-15, 2016Photo(s): By Indian Navy

On October 26, 2015, the Indian Navy released its latest maritime strategy, titled “Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy.” This edition is a revised and updated version of the previous outlined strategy “Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy,” published in 2007. The 2015 maritime security strategy addresses the evolving security dynamics in the Indian Ocean region and reflects a bold Indian Navy with a renewed outlook on India’s maritime security needs. In his foreword, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R.K. Dhowan, explains how the seas will remain a key enabler in India’s global resurgence.

India’s quintessential maritime character and vital geostrategic location are twin factors that have defined her growth as a nation and evolution as a cosmopolitan civilisation. Her prominent peninsular orientation and flanking island chains overlook strategic sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, linking her security and prosperity inextricably to the seas. With rugged terrain and high mountain ranges dominating her northern borders, India finds the seas to be the primary means of extending her connectivity and trade links with her neighbourhood and the world at large. Not surprisingly, over 90 per cent by volume and 70 per cent by value of her external trade even today is transacted by sea.

The last decade has witnessed India’s dependence on her maritime environment expanding substantially as her economic, military and technological strength grew, her global interactions widened and her national security imperatives and political interests stretched gradually beyond the Indian Ocean region. There seems little doubt today that the 21st century will be the ‘Century of the Seas’ for India and that the seas will remain a key enabler in her global resurgence.

The Indian Navy today remains the principal manifestation of India’s maritime power and plays a central role in safeguarding and promoting her security and national interests in the maritime domain. The Navy’s roles and responsibilities have also expanded significantly over the years in response to changing geoeconomic and geostrategic circumstances.

These facts and factors were aptly reflected in the Indian Maritime Doctrine, promulgated in 2004 and revised in 2009, and the Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy, published in 2007. The two publications articulated the Navy’s maritime strategic outlook, defined the parameters of its employment, and provided overarching guidance for its evolution as a combat force. They, however, need periodic review to continue reflecting prevailing circumstances and remaining contemporary and relevant. Such an exercise has become necessary today owing to three significant developments of the past decade that affect India’s maritime security and the role of her Navy.

The first is the sweeping change that the global and regional geostrategic environment has seen during the period. The shift in worldview from a Euro-Atlantic to an Indo-Pacific focus and the repositioning of global economic and military power towards Asia has resulted in significant political, economic and social changes in the Indian Ocean region and impacted India’s maritime environment in tangible ways.

The second is a considerable change that India’s security-cum-threat calculus has seen during the period. In addition to persisting threats and challenges of the ‘traditional’ nature, India’s maritime security environment has become even more complex and unpredictable today with the expansion in scale and presence of a variety of ‘non-traditional’ threats. The 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, for instance, demanded a re-evaluation of our security perceptions and devolved to the Navy the responsibility for India’s overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security. This, in turn, called for a reorientation of our organisation, operating philosophy and force development plans.

The third is a national outlook towards the seas and the maritime domain, and a clearer recognition of maritime security being a vital element of national progress and international engagement. Today, India interacts more actively with littoral states of the Indian Ocean region and employs maritime security engagement as a cornerstone of her regional foreign policy initiatives. There is also wider acknowledgement of the role the Navy can play in strengthening and enhancing maritime security in the region.

These developments have necessitated a revision of the Navy’s 2007 strategy and the promulgation of a follow-on edition. Titled ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy’, this edition aims to highlight India’s contemporary maritime security considerations and reflect the incontrovertible link between secure seas and India’s resurgence in the 21st century.

This document covers a wide canvas. It seeks to provide readers in the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, other maritime agencies and armed forces, as well as the government and informed public, an insight into the rationale for strengthening India’s maritime security in the coming years. It has been compiled through an iterative and inclusive process, eliciting inputs from the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, Indian Coast Guard, several defence-related ‘think tanks’, and a large number of acknowledged experts in maritime affairs within and outside the Navy.

The document intends to provide strategic guidance for the growth, development and deployment of the Navy in the coming years, and will need review and retuning as circumstances and conditions change and evolve. I am sanguine that it will provide a useful template to guide the professional perspectives of those in the white uniform, as well as those that are associated with, or interested in, strengthening India’s maritime security in different ways in the 21st century.