Homeland Security

Peep at the Nautical Crystal Ball
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Issue Vol 23.1 Jan-Mar2008 | Date : 24 Jan , 2011

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), encompasses 56 littoral and hinterland nations with 33 percent of the world’s population, but only 25 percent of the land mass. The IOR, has numerous unresolved maritime boundary disputes including Sir Creek with Pakistan and maritime boundary dispute with Bangladesh. The IOR also has the world’s largest oil and gas reserves in the Middle East. Over 100,000 merchant ships transit the Indian Ocean annually, with goods worth over US $ 1 trillion. Some 70,000 ships transit the Malacca Straits anuually. India has 13 major ports and 183 minor ports of which only 35 are “operational”. 90 percent of India’s trade by volume and 75 percent by cost, moves by sea, as does all our imported crude oil, which constitutes 75 percent of our consumption, with an import bill of US $ 43.4 bn in 2006.

70 percent of our oil imports come to the Gulfs of Kutch and Cambay and the port of Mumbai. Indeed, the 700 km Kutch coastline has assets worth Rs 140,000 crores, and its ports handled 1100 ships/ oil tankers in 2007; expects to handle 2100 by 2012 and over 4000 by 2020. In 2006-07, the Gulf of Kutch handled 117 MT of petroleum products, while 95 MT was handled by Mumbai and JNPT Seaward security of this region, bordering Pakistan, against terrorist peacetime sabotage and wartime threats is absolutely crucial, to India’s strategic and energy security. 66 percent of our domestic crude comes from the sea. On 02 Dec 2006, an oil tanker brought the first shipment of oil from the Russian oilfields of SAKHALIN -1 to New Mangalore ports, transiting the Singapore and Malacca straits. This event highlights the importance of “safe and secure” conditions for sea traffic in the two choke points through which India imports its oil, viz Persian Gulf and the Straits of Malacca.

The Coast Guards of Japan, South Korea and even Malayasia (newly formed) are generally modeled on the USCG and avoid the need for frequent consultations, which can delay decision making. In Sri Lanka, the Coast Guard functions are carried out by the Navy. The Coast Guard of Bangladesh is a notionally independent service, but manned completely by officers and men of the Bangladesh Navy. Similarly, Pakistans Maritime Security Agency, though notionally independent, is manned completely by officers and men of the Pakistan Navy. This ensures better command, control, co-ordination and inter-operability.

By 2025, India and China will become the third and second largest importers of oil, with 320 and 640 mn tonnes respectively, and their combined requirements will be 45 percent of the global consumption. The safety of sealanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will therefore be crucial, as any attacks by pirates, terrorists (or during hostilities) will disrupt shipping, hike insurance rates and raise global prices.

Notwithstanding, the current debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal,and the rise in oil prices to over US $100 a barrel, the fact remains that oil and coal which presently contribute 32 and 54 percent respectively to India’s yearly energy requirements, will continue to remain very important till well past 2050. Nuclear power may become critical to India’s energy requirements by about 2100, if more oil, gas and coal are not found. On 10 Nov 07, Brazil announced a huge offshore oil find, and hopefully India too will have similar finds, given the intensive offshore oil exploration in progress and that are planned. At the same time our scientists need to urgently progress our three stage Nuclear Power programme. India’s foreign going shipping (presently 787 ships) is expected to increase steadily, while the 530 strong coastal shipping will double by 2012.

India is the third largest fish producing nation in the world, with 314,000 vintage fishing boats and a “fishers” population of 2.8 million. Its annual catch is a paltry 8.4 mn tons as compared to its potential of 40 mn tons. Hence this field of marine activity too is expected to grow rapidly.

Also, the growth in shipping and seaward oil exploration,will lead to the concurrent rise of requirements of search and rescue, combating–smuggling, gun running, piracy and maritime terrorism. 26 million Indian expatriates the world over, contribute US $ 24 bn annually to the Indian economy. Of this US $ 12 bn, comes from the 4.2 million Indians living in the Middle East, which makes this region important, because most of our oil also comes from there.

India’s island territories comprise 572 islands in the A&N group. These islands,contribute to 30 percent of India’s EEZ, though their land mass is less than 0.2 percent of the total. 27 islands in the Lakhshadweep group and another 598 uninhabted rocks, islets in the sea add to a total of 1197. While India’s land mass is 2.99 mn sq km, its EEZ is 2.01 mn sq km and expected to increase to 3 mn sq km after the 2009 pending decision of the UN Legal Continental Shelf Committee. The Indian Search and Rescue Region at sea is 4.6 mn sq km. The arc from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca straits, which is of great importance to India, encompasses a sea area over 10 mn sq km, which the Indian Navy would have to monitor. Having, already suffered during the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993, wherein the explosives came by sea, India has been well aware of the need for peace, security and tranquility in the IOR, well before the 9/11 incidents made the western world aware of the dangers of global terrorism. Keeping the sea lanes of communications open, in the post 9/11 era of global terrorism, is in India’s direct national interest. There is a definte link between our seaborne commerce (which includes energy security), maritime security, national prosperity and national security. The presence of LTTE’s Sea Tiger and Air Tigers force in close proximity to India’s southern coast poses its own challenges. The spate of recent terrorist attacks in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are a grim reminder of the present “no war–no peace” scenario caused by the global terrorism.

Also read:

In the 60 years since independence, India as a nation has suffered numerous surprise conventional and terrorist attacks, viz, 1947 Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir; peacetime loss of Aksai Chin to China in the “fifties”; the disastrous 1962 Indo–China war; 1965 Pakistan incursions into Saurashtra, followed by the invasion of Kashmir; 1989 Kashmir insurgency; 1999 Pakistan incursion into Kargil; 2001-terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament; insugencies; creeping demographic change in the North-East; and numerous terrorist attacks in various parts of India. As per press reports, there were 240 incursions by the Chinese Army along the LAC. As compared to this, the USA since 1781 has suffered only three surprise attacks, i.e. burning down of Washington DC on 24 Aug 1814 by the British Army from Canada which was avenged by a decisive American victory in early 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 Dec 1941; and the 11 Sep 2001, terrorist attacks, on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.

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