Updated: August 28, 2021 8:33:12 am
States today are applying “land-centric approach” of a territorial mindset to maritime domain, and actors are using different methods to remain below the threshold of conflict, diffusing the binary of war and peace, Indian Navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, said on Friday.
Delivering a lecture at the United Service Institution of India, Admiral Singh said, “What we are seeing today is, some states applying a land-centric approach and territorial mindset to the basic idea of global commons, attempting to seek greater domination and control.”
He said: “We are transitioning to a period of busy peace, where the binaries of peace and conflict are becoming less relevant. We were earlier used to the idea of war or peace, but this is more diffused now, with actors using diverse playbook of actions and counter-actions within this continuum on a day-to-day basis, whilst mostly remaining below the threshold of conflict.”
Autocratic powers, the Navy chief said, enjoy a “natural advantage within this competition continuum, applying all the leverages in focussed manner; something we can call sharp power to undermine and weaken the very sources of power of a democracy”, including “attacking (a) free media, social media, election processes, financial institutions,” and thus “turning strengths of democratic nations into weaknesses”.
Talking about the importance of the Indo-Pacific, he said that its value lies “not in its constituent area, but in its core underlying idea itself,” and called it the “centre of gravity of global interactions”.
“India has the privilege of being at the core of this defining idea of our times,” the Navy chief said.
“Given a predominant maritime orientation, there is a natural tendency for nations to engage, to collaborate,” he said. “With seas as the lifelines of global trade and prosperity, and nearly 50 per cent of global trade passing through the Indo-Pacific, most nations within and beyond…have a core interest in keeping the Indo-Pacific free for commerce.”
He said this is why some concepts, such as like-minded partners, free and open and inclusive seas, have gained greater currency. “We have to be aware of the evolving nature of competition and contestation in the region,” he said.
Speaking about India’s advantages in the region, Admiral Singh said that its “cultural and civilisation footprint is deeply embedded throughout the Indo-Pacific — from the eastern coast of Africa to East Asia. Add to that our very vibrant diaspora.” These links, carried outward by the water of the Indo-Pacific in the past, are “important linkages and leverages for India’s soft power”.
“Indo-Pacific also offers us the opportunity to break the mould of a land-centric, border-focussed nation that hitherto has been our dominant approach. This border-focussed approach limits us from truly harnessing our fullest potential, of expanding our geostrategic gaze and influence into the wider globe. The waters of the Indo-Pacific offer such opportunity, to move outwards and seek India’s rightful place in global affairs.”
He said “safe and secure seas” are imperative to secure India’s and the region’s interest. Developing interoperability with other larger and developed navies will “help us collectively respond to a situation when needed” and also learn best practices, he said.
Admiral Singh said, “We…aim to be a preferred security partner (in the region and) build trust with like-minded navies.”
Indian Navy’s focus continues to be on developing a “future proofed Balanced Fleet, with Blue water and Brown water capability”, for which it is “laying impetus to unmanned systems in a big way”, Singh said. He mentioned that the “road map for the next 10 years is under way”, and that in space and cyber domains, “our aim is to do more”, as India has “limited capability” there at the moment.
For maritime domain awareness, he said, several steps are needed, including “persistent surveillance” for which, he said, “we are leveraging assets with long legs” including P8I surveillance aircraft of the Navy, HALE drones and satellites. “Mission Based Deployments also help in this…eventually, the aim is to leverage our central location and geography, as also our software prowess,” the Navy chief said”.
He also said that “breaking silos in the maritime domain is an important part of this”, and creation of the National Maritime Security Coordinator is a step in this direction.