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India’s Maritime Diplomacy in West Asia: Challenges and Responsibilities
The Significance of Waterways
The waterways of West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region are among the most important in the world. They facilitate the export of large volumes of oil and natural gas from the region and also bridging traders in the Eastern and Western worlds through the Red Sea and Suez Canal of Egypt. The political tensions have played part in these waterways since the mid-20th century and the vulnerability of naval security has been exacerbated in recent years by the failure of bordering states to promote internal stability and therefore the lack of adequate maritime security capabilities that have caused serious threats in the region. Three waterways in the WANA region are at particularly high risk namely the Suez Canal, the Gulf, and the Gulf of Aden. In the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden, maritime commerce is threatened by the severe lack of stability in the regional governments around the waterways. The situation in the Gulf of Aden, as the poor economic and security conditions in Somalia have led to the development of piracy endeavours that target commercial traffic in the Gulf and broader Indian Ocean Region. Further, no waterway is more vital to the international trade of oil and natural gas than the Gulf in general and the Strait of Hormuz in particular. As the gateway of the world’s largest energy exporters, the Strait of Hormuz is a critical node to international trade. It consists of a narrow corridor that passes between the southern coast of Iran to the north and the coasts of the UAE and Oman to the south. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) considers the Strait of Hormuz to be “the world’s most important oil chokepoint”. The Gulf of Aden serves as a link that connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, therefore, serving as key transit point for East-West cargo travelling to or from the Suez Canal. The Gulf of Aden opens to the northwest to the Red Sea through the Bab el-Mandab, a waterway that narrows to 18 miles between Yemen and the coastlines of Djibouti and Eritrea. This waterway is considered a “chokepoint” for oil trade. To the east, the Gulf of Aden opens to the Arabian Sea and eventually to the broader Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Ocean waters off the east coast of Africa and extending to India have become prime environments for piracy in recent years, likely due to their vital importance to regional and global commerce.
India and West Asia.
Though, India is not frequently seen as having direct interests in West Asia but it seems very important from various historical, social, and economic linkages. Kerala’s Syriac Christians trace their origins to St. Thomas, who arrived in Kerala in 52 CE. The first Muslims in India, goes back further to the eighth century arrival in Sindh of Muhammad bin Qasim, were in Kerala, the result of maritime Indian Ocean trade with the Gulf during the seventh century. Connectivity by sea, across the Indian Ocean, reveals a history of deep trading linkages between India and the Gulf throughout modern history. India’s energy needs have led to extensive oil and gas relationships with the West Asia; the Gulf is the main source for India ‘s oil imports, accounting for 82 per cent of its overall needs as well as the source of important energy requirements. Therefore, India shares a deep historical, cultural and civilizational links with the West Asia. In the second half of 20th century, these relationships were further reinforced as the two emerged from their colonial past and started weaving new realities, building new bridges of understanding and synergies to deal with the common interests and new challenges of the 21st century. For India, West Asia is a pan of our extended neighbourhood and as such continued peace and stability in the region is in our strategic interest. To understand the depth of our multidimensional engagement in West Asia, the region is home almost 8 million Indians, who contribute around USS 40 billion in remittances annually. Our economic and commercial engagement with the region is around US$ 186 billion per annum (2013-14), making it the largest trading regional partners of India. The West Asia is a source for more than 60 per cent of our oil and gas requirement, which is critical for India’s energy security. The Maghreb region is a major source of phosphate and other fertilizers that is a significant factor in our food security. In view of the current situation in West Asia, new areas of defence and security cooperation have also emerged which include counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, piracy, money laundering, small arms smuggling, financing terror activities, etc. Specific measures for strengthening institutional security mechanisms can also include: greater naval presence in the Gulf region; regular participation in Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) meetings; stronger regional cooperation through naval assets in the Strait of Hormuz and Red Sea for protection of India’s maritime trade. Therefore, India attaches high priority to its political, economic, and security relations with the countries of West Asia. However, India’s present maritime diplomacy towards the West Asia region has many layers. Its focus is almost exclusively on the Arabian Gulf nevertheless its interests and capabilities have been growing slowly across the region, though it continues to feel the region is too volatile for India to seek an active geo-political involvement in it. But recently, the sectarian issue has been entered into the equation of regional politics: India is also concerned about the rising of Shi’a-Sunni conflicts in West Asia and the possibility of these conflicts might spread to its own Muslim community. India is home to the third largest Sunni and the third largest Shi’a populations in the world. Further, India has cultivated a number of important bilateral relations in the region which include Israel, Iran and some of the Gulf monarchies such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and etc. However, India would prefer not to have to choose between them, it avoids playing a larger role in the region. Nevertheless, India’s maritime diplomacy is not limited to the naval domain; trans-border infrastructural development is a major priority for the NDA led Modi government. This proposal is similar to China’s plan for a maritime silk road linking the Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. For India, which appears wary of China’s plans for the Indian Ocean, West Asia, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor could be the first step towards building its own maritime silk road. Because major maritime lines of trade and energy routes intersect in this region, India’s interest lies in a peaceful and balanced strategic environment in West Asia. India’s anti-piracy efforts from the Horn of Africa to protect the vital sea-lines have been applauded. India’s defence cooperation and effective partnerships within the countries of this region have helped them to stem the tide of terrorism and extremism. India has stressed on building energy security through long term arrangements and mutual investments and linkages. This region is full of challenges and responsibilities, but India as a rising power and an economic giant cannot afford to be a mute observer. There are few long and short term policy options which New Delhi can use effectively. The long term options include prioritizing the region, understanding the political efficiency of contemporary world politics, promoting soft power, fostering counter terrorism cooperation, recognizing contestation for the regional leadership, committing to a balanced and pragmatic approach between Israel and the Arab nations and moving towards creating conducive entrepreneurial environment.
India’s Look West Policy
The ongoing turmoil in West Asia has created an opportunity for India to engage with the GCC and complement it with the interaction of Iran. The GCC is also one of India’s largest trade partners, with trade valued at $150billion in 2013-14. As discussed earlier, India has a unique asset and a responsibility in the region with the presence of its community about 8 million in the GCC, with about 3 million each in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, well over half a million in Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, and just below half a million in Bahrain. In fact, Indians constitute the majority community in at least three GCC countries the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain; they are also the largest expatriate community in every country of the GCC. The Indian work force in the GCC remits to India about $40 billion annually. Assuming that one expatriate worker supports at least four to five others at home, it can be safely assumed that about 40 million Indians benefit directly from the Indian presence in the GCC. From the GCC perspective, India represents the narrative of economic and technological achievements in a multicultural democratic order. India has the added advantage in its foreign policy posture that it adopts positions that are non-intrusive, non-prescriptive and non-hegemonic. India is thus well-placed to take the lead in setting up the proposed diplomatic initiative in West Asia. The India-Gulf relationship is taking an upward trajectory, and India’s stakes and interests have grown with the passage of time; thus, it is time for India to adopt a formally articulated Look West Policy, in line with the successful Look East Policy. India’s engagement with the region and its critical importance for India’s security means that standing aloof is no option. A Look West Policy should focus on strengthening bilateral political, economic, and security ties with the countries of the Gulf region. Regular interaction at the highest levels will infuse further confidence in the relationship. Thus, India must articulate its interests in the region clearly through a Look West Policy, backed by road maps and resources. PM Modi’s recent initiatives in the region reflect its growing desire to strengthen defence and security ties with the Gulf countries. There are several issues such as terrorism, piracy, criminal activities, money laundering, and small arms smuggling which call for increasing security cooperation between India and the Gulf countries. India has to play a more effective role in the shaping of the new maritime security architecture in the region. If India misses out, its interests will be affected in future.
Moreover, PM Modi’s visits to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in April 2016, resulted in stronger security partnerships with the expanding cooperation in the region. Saudi Arabia and India have. also agreed on the need to intensify bilateral defence cooperation, through exchange of visits by military personnel and experts, conduct of joint military exercises, and exchange of visits of ships and aircrafts. Furthermore, they have made an unprecedented agreement to jointly develop arms and ammunition in India. This is a diplomatic victory for India which highlights the importance of the Gulf States that place on elevating ties with India. In addition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s close relations with Pakistan have always dominated their relations with India. But Islamabad ’s refusal to provide greater military support to Saudi Arabia’s regional policies opened the new opportunity for New Delhi to reshape these partnerships. As the Gulf countries look for alternative security partners, an elevated Indian profile in the region will allow India to ensure its place in the region. According to Shivshankar Menon, West Asia and the Gulf countries, therefore, are very important for India and affect our security and prosperity directly. And yet, if we are so vitally connected to West Asia, why is India’s foot print in the region so light. It was in the 1950s when we took positions, built military relations, and worked politically with friends in the region, ranging from Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt to King Ibn Sand and the Shah of Iran? As our familiarity with the region has grown gradually and our capabilities have increased, we have become more and more aware of the nature of the problems in the region. Since, the First Gulf War in 1990, changes in the situation in West Asia and our increasing capabilities make it advisable that India must adopt a much more active forward policy in the region, if we are to pursue our growing geo-strategic interests. Simply put, our interests in West Asia have grown exponentially as India has grown. The oil and natural gas that we import, on our exports to West Asia, and on the security of the sea-lines which passes through and to the Gulf and the Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, and all along the western littoral of the Indian Ocean. Maritime security in the region is among our primary concerns. This is why we chose to deploy naval assets to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast since 2008, along with other countries. The demand from our friends in the Gulf region, therefore, Indian involvement in their maritime security has grown gradually. The West, particularly the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, has been a traditional provider of security, the situation and local demands are clearly changing, and space is opening up for a greater Indian role in providing maritime security. In the last decade, we have made a beginning with Oman, Qatar and others in the Gulf region on maritime security. India and West Asian regimes must shared intelligence and act together against these terrorists but now recognise terrorism as a threat to themselves and to India. Such cooperation is useful and can be extended in future as well. Therefore, the geo-politics has made West Asia even more important to our future. For India, West Asia represents our access to Central Asia, Russia and Afghanistan, and, potentially, overland to Europe. If we are to ensure these vital communications links, we must work actively with Iran to actually implement long discussed but unrealised ideas of the North-South Corridor, the development of the Chahbahar Port, the India Pakistan-Iran oil pipeline, and other connectivity projects. Certainly, India cannot achieve all its goals in this increasingly complex and uncertain region alone. We will need partners from the West Asia region." Not one but several come to mind and have been seeking a greater Indian role and partnership:
Iran is central to many of our concerns maritime security, access to Central Asia, peace in Afghanistan and so on. This is simple recognition of the facts of geography and weight.
Saudi Arabia has become a valued partner in counter-terrorism in recent years, as have other countries in the Gulf, as with Qatar, there is room to work together against the terrorist groups which target us.
Egypt, whatever her regime, has been a factor of stability in the region, which is exactly what we seek.
And the Gulf States are naturally interested in a greater Indian contribution to peace in the area.
Therefore, PM Modi’s recent visit to Tehran marks a new geo political beginning in the Arabian Gulf and putting the Chabahar port in the grand chess board of India’s strategic calculus in the West Asia region. Just about 72 km away from Gwadar port of Pakistan developed by China, India signed the strategic Chabahar port agreement with Iran which analysts describe as India's calibrated stroke against China’s expanding regional influence. India is carefully but creatively crafting a strategically reliable Maritime Goodwill Curve in the region. Iran ‘s geo-strategic location can add to India ‘s benefits in securing its national interest. During the visit, India and Iran signed a dozen agreements like a pact to setup an aluminium plant; and on laying a railway line for India’s connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Moreover, India, Iran and Afghanistan also signed a tripartite agreement on the Chabahar port for a land cum-sea corridor for the transit of goods to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries circumventing Pakistan. In the larger geopolitical context, the Chabahar port deal is no doubt a strategic victory for India. The recent visit by Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, offered to invest up to $20 billion in oil, petro-chemicals and fertiliser projects in joint ventures with Iran if Tehran provides land and gas at concessional rates. He also expressed an interest in setting up an LNG plant and a gas cracker unit at Chabahar port. The official lifting of western sanctions against Iran in January 2016 has expanded the scope of Indo-Iranian engagement significantly and India is trying to recalibrate its Iran policy. Iran’s crude oil exports to India are now three times higher compared to last year. New Delhi has signed an air services agreement with Iran enhancing the number of flights between the two nations and allowing each other’s airlines to operate to additional destinations. The two sides have also inked a memorandum of understanding that is aimed at increasing bilateral trade to $30 billion from $15 billion. Plans are afoot for greater maritime cooperation, and Iran has already joined the Indian Navy’s annual initiative, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which provides a forum for the navies of the Indian Ocean littoral states to engage with each other. But as the balance of power in the region unravels, new equations are emerging and older paradigms are no longer sufficient to engage the region."
India’s Maritime Diplomacy in West Asia
India’s maritime diplomacy is a desire of the state to preserve, protect and promote her maritime interests in West Asia. The pursuit, promotion, preservation and protection of India’s maritime interests are focussed upon a single axiom that “India wishes to use the seas for her own purposes while simultaneously preventing others from using them in ways that are to her disadvantage”, and also defines that maritime diplomacy is an instrument of state policy. There are some basic principles of India’s maritime diplomacy which are as given below:
Protection from sea-based threats to our territorial integrity.
Ensuring Stability in our Maritime Neighbourhood.
Creation, development, and sustenance of a ‘Blue Economy ‘incorporating: The protection of India’s maritime resources and offshore infrastructure within and beyond the Maritime Zones of India.
The promotion, Protection and Safety of our Overseas and Coastal Seabee Trade and our Sea Lines of Communication including the ports that constitute the nodes of this trade.
Support to Marine Scientific Research including that in Antarctica.
Provision of support and extrication-options to our Diaspora.
Provision of holistic maritime security that is freedom from threats arising ‘in’ or ‘from’ the sea.
Gaining and maintaining a regionally favourable geostrategic and geopolitical maritime position.
Energy security, of course, is a key ingredient of India’s maritime interest in the West Asia region. India is dependent on imports for 80 per cent of its oil needs, but this ratio could decline slowly as India diversities with an increased focus on African countries. The rate at which India’s energy demand is growing; it is currently the world’s fourth biggest oil consumer with import dependence projected to increase to 90% by 2031. India’s increasingly multidimensional relations with GCC states support these energy security efforts. The Indian Diaspora in the Arab states, a valuable connection and the possibilities for investment go beyond the energy sector. The UAE has agreed to invest $75 billion in Indian infrastructure, Bahrain is looking to invest in financial services and high value added manufacturing among other areas, and countries like Kuwait have sovereign funds ripe for targeting. Security and geopolitical considerations are, naturally, threaded through these economic engagements. E actor in India’s potential role as a maritime net security provider for the Gulf States, reliant as they are on energy shipping through the Indian Ocean region. According to the Indian Navy’s Maritime Security Strategy, the Arabian Gulf is a primary area of interest. The possibilities for cooperation are significant. In 2040, India will overtake China as the largest source of rising demand for oil. The time has come to securing its interests in West Asia and to hold strong position in the region. According to Maritime Military Strategy of India, published in 2007, which has “articulated the Navy ‘s maritime strategic outlook, defines the parameters of its employment, and provided over reaching guidance for its evolution as a combat force”, and it has four principal features. First, major sea lines of the world are crucially important for India, particularly those that ensure the free flow of oil and commerce from the Gulf of Aden to the Asia-Pacific, termed Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, as India’s global mercantile trade has grown phenomenally and now constitutes more than 43% of its GDP. As much as 77% of India’s trade by value, and over 90% by volume is carried by sea. Secondly, the maritime diplomacy is also vital for India’s energy security. India’s economic growth would continue to be critically dependent on the unhindered flow of oil. India also imports coal from 10 countries including Mozambique, South Africa, Indonesia and Australia, many of which are Indian Ocean littorals. This is also true of its LNG imports from Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Africa. Thirdly, India’s maritime diplomacy also includes the safety and well being of Indian workers in the Gulf and West Asia; the significance of the remittances they send home cannot be underestimated. Besides, populations of Indian origin are scattered through the littoral states of the Indo-Pacific region. Fourthly, the Indian Ocean that presents the prospect of wealth and prosperity contains also the seeds of nature conflict i.e. under sea resources. India has a mineral rich EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), currently extending over 2 million sq. km, and the successful exploitation of these could lift the country from economic backwardness. By taking into account, firstly, the above mentioned maritime diplomatic interests, India’s Maritime Doctrine of 2009 had talked of “the use of appropriate maritime forces” so that the Indian Navy can acts “to deter or defeat any threats or aggression against the territory, peoples or maritime interests of India, both in war and peace”. Secondly, the doctrine said that the Navy would “project influence” in India’s maritime area of interest with the Navies of the friendly countries through mutual visits and joint exercises to further the nation’s political, economic and security objectives.28 It also mentions that the Indian Navy would provide maritime assistance in India’s maritime neighbourhood. In sum, the Indian Maritime Doctrine of 2009 elaborated four primary missions for Indian naval forces:
economic and energy security,
forward presence, and
In this way, the latest India’s maritime diplomacy is an improvement? As Admiral Dhowan says, over the last few years, India’s “security-cum-threat calculus" has changed considerably, “with the expansion in scale and presence of a variety of ‘non-traditional’ threats” such as terrorism, piracy and increasing incidents of natural disasters as well as regional instabilities that necessitate increased deployment of the Navy for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Therefore, it is now an expanded outlook of the Indian Navy, which has been given the additional mandate of looking after the overall maritime security of the country, including coastal and offshore security in West Asia. There is “a clearer recognition of maritime security being a vital element of national interests and international engagement. Today, India employs maritime security engagements as a cornerstone of her regional foreign policy initiatives in West Asia. There is also wider acknowledgment of the role the Navy can play in strengthening and enhancing maritime security in the West Asia region”. Therefore, the concept of maritime diplomacy, the Indian Navy has not only expanded its maritime engagement with regional navies but has also built “bridges of friendship” through regular ship visits to countries along the Indian Ocean Rim. The Navy’s diplomatic turn has been especially noteworthy in the expansion of naval cooperation with Arab Gulf states, offering critical support to India’s foreign policy initiatives in West Asia. Since 2008, the Navy has consciously nurtured its relationships in the Arabian Sea. Apart from partnering regional navies in anti-piracy duties, it has played an important part in supporting and training Gulf Cooperation Council maritime forces. More significantly, Oman has played a key role in sustaining India’s security efforts in the Gulf of Aden by offering berthing and replenishment facilities to naval ships, and hosting a crucial listening post in the Western Indian Ocean." An appreciation of its strategic potential has led New Delhi to cultivate stronger maritime ties with Muscat. Importantly for India, the ongoing engagement with Arab navies has not been to the exclusion of a maritime relationship with Iran. It has been gaining confidence as a regional maritime power. India offers the most potential for such a partnership. The Indian Navy’s burgeoning ties with Arab Gulf navy’s demonstrate the utility of maritime power as a foreign policy tool. India’s maritime diplomacy has shown that the political role of sea power remains as important as its wartime uses. Through its Arabian Gulf initiatives, the Indian Navy has shown that by positioning itself as a reliable and supportive partner of regional maritime forces, a navy can shape the broader strategic environment, forge lasting relationships and effectively deter challengers.
Challenges and Responsibilities
The riskiest areas in any Sea Lines of Communications are those that have choke points and as such the most notably are the Gulf of Aden, Strait of Hormuz near the Arabian Sea, and Malacca straits in the Indian Ocean. They have become the bane of present and future challenges, in light of Somali piracy which is the largest contributor to this problem, among piracy by other groups. It becomes feasible for major naval powers like US and India that have the opportunity to tie efforts to reduce cost of antipiracy operations, by sharing the large area of responsibilities.” Even though, the latest data indicates that the threat to piracy is reduced, in the Gulf of Aden region off the coast of Somalia, the gain could be short lived if effective counter measures are not kept in place. The ability of the Indian Navy was recently seen in Operation Rahat which rescued more than 5600 people included 4640 Indians and 960 foreign nationals who belonged to 41 nations. India ‘s strategic reach it is what India brings to the table for serving interests during war torn situations for other nations.34 Moreover, the terrorist attacks at sea are aimed at destroying ships, taking control of seaports and traffic through strategic straits and waterways. Consequently, this triggered a debate over the manifestations of maritime terrorism surged in West Asia. The debates also question the effectiveness of anti-maritime terrorism policies embraced by countries to counter these activities of terrorist organizations. The Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific defines maritime terrorism as “the undertaking of terrorist acts and activities within the maritime environment, using or against vessels or fixed platforms including oil production and refineries at sea or in port, or against any one of their passengers or personnel, against coastal facilities or settlements, including tourist resorts, port areas and port towns or cities” for political ends. This differentiates between maritime terrorism and piracy. That is, pirate’s activities are mainly economically driven as pirate gangs seek to make material gains through capturing vessels and selling their cargo, holding crew member’s hostage to extort ransom money for their release, while terrorist organizations focus their acts on inflicting maximum human and material loss on all parts of the maritime sector with the aim of tuning security and stability. These include the activities of these organizations are no longer limited to attacks against maritime traffic, attempts to seize ports and oil terminals, maritime piracy and illegal trading in oil and commodities with the aim of enhancing their financial resources. As Indian dependence on imported crude oil and raw materials grows, and as the demand for consumer goods increases, India’s strategic maritime objectives are to ensure the security of SLOCs from the Arabian Gulf, Europe, and East Asia. The security of these vital shipping lines is also vital for the country’s exports-most notably the increasing quantities of refined distillates, fuels, petro-chemicals and etc. Moreover, effective maritime diplomacy means that the need to address several emerging challenges at the same time. These include constructing instrumental regional mechanisms for economic and resource governance of the maritime commons, meeting security like traditional and non-traditional threats at sea and enunciating effective deterrence against conventional and strategic maritime threats. The 'use of force’ if necessary in the high seas should remain a viable option in India’s maritime diplomacy. Towards that end, the Indian Navy’s strategic mandate is to bolster India’s maritime power projection capabilities in West Asia region. Greater capacity building will strengthen the Indian Navy’s ability to assume increasingly maritime responsibilities in the wake of emerging security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. In the years ahead, maritime diplomacy is set to assume a salient role in attaining India’s strategic objective of fostering a peaceful and secure maritime order in West Asia, the Indian Ocean Region and beyond. Therefore, Indian navy’s areas of interest are expanding, and reflecting its willingness to play a larger role in the West Asian region. The Red Sea, previously a secondary area of interest, as per the revised Maritime Doctrine of 2009, is now an area of primary interest for the Indian navy. Additionally, “the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden and their littoral regions, the Southwest Indian Ocean, including Indian Ocean Region island nations and East Coast of Africa littoral regions” now all are of primary interest to India’s maritime security. In fact, there has been a shift in India’s maritime diplomacy that has made clear through the navy's engagement under the Modi government. India will emerge as a crucial leader and critical player in the evolving security architecture in the region. India would have to work towards developing a strategic architecture wherein her status as a predominant power in this region is recognized. It is in her maritime Interest to create an environment in which she can ensure free and unhindered flow of energy and trade from the West Asia.
In sum, West Asia is a very significant region for India’s maritime diplomacy in general and the Gulf Cooperation Council in particular because India is dependent for its large part of energy requirements in the region, and similarly, the security of waterways in West Asia has also become the need of hour for India to create a maritime security mechanism for its geopolitical and economic interests. In the era of globalization, the goods have been trading by the sea routes because of the low costs in transportation, and therefore, the importance of sea-routes is also growing steadily, and consequently, the countries of the world want to use sea lines of communications for their trade and shipping activities. Nevertheless, the maritime terrorism and the severe threats posed by pirates in the region have threatened the regional countries such as India and the GCC, subsequently; they are trying to develop strong maritime security architecture in West Asia. At the present, India and the Gulf countries have convergence of interests in the field of maritime strategy, and this is the right time for India to take greater responsibilities in the region and prepared for the challenges ‘in the future. It is in India’s geo-political interest to have naval foots on the grounds in the West Asia region, and the development of Iran’s Chahbahar port is a best example of India’s successful Maritime diplomacy in West Asia. We need to have strong relationships with the regional countries of West Asia so that we can secure our interests in the region.
Maritime Diplomacy in West Asia raw materials grows, and as the demand for consumer goods increases, India’s strategic maritime objectives are to ensure the security of SLOCs from the Arabian Gulf, Europe, and East Asia. The security of these vital shipping lines is also vital for the country’s exports-most notably the increasing quantities of refined distillates, fuels, petro-chemicals and etc. Moreover, effective maritime diplomacy means that the need to address several emerging challenges at the same time. These include constructing instrumental regional mechanisms for economic and resource governance of the maritime commons, meeting security like traditional and non-traditional threats at sea and enunciating effective deterrence against conventional and strategic maritime threats. The 'use of force’ if necessary in the high seas should remain a viable option in India’s maritime diplomacy. Towards that end, the Indian Navy’s strategic mandate is to bolster India’s maritime power projection capabilities in West Asia region. Greater capacity building will strengthen the Indian Navy’s ability to assume increasingly maritime responsibilities in the wake of emerging security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. In the years ahead, maritime diplomacy is set to assume a salient role in attaining India’s strategic objective of fostering a peaceful and secure maritime order in West Asia, the Indian Ocean Region and beyond. Therefore, Indian navy’s areas of interest are expanding, and reflecting its willingness to play a larger role in the West Asian region. The Red Sea, previously a secondary area of interest, as per the revised Maritime Doctrine of 2009, is now an area of primary interest for the Indian navy. Additionally, “the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden and their littoral regions, the Southwest Indian Ocean, including Indian Ocean Region island nations and East Coast of Africa littoral regions” now all are of primary interest to India’s maritime security. In fact, there has been a shift in India’s maritime diplomacy that has made clear through the navy's engagement under the Modi government. India will emerge as a crucial leader and critical player in the evolving security architecture in the region. India would have to work towards developing a strategic architecture wherein her status as a predominant power in this region is recognized. It is in her maritime Interest to create an environment in which she can ensure free and unhindered flow of energy and trade from the West Asia.
In sum, West Asia is a very significant region for India’s maritime diplomacy in general and the Gulf Cooperation Council in particular because India is dependent for its large part of energy requirements in the region, and similarly, the security of waterways in West Asia has also become the need of hour for India to create a maritime security mechanism for its geopolitical and economic interests. In the era of globalization, the goods have been trading by the sea routes because of the low costs in transportation, and therefore, the importance of sea-routes is also growing steadily, and consequently, the countries of the world want to use sea lines of communications for their trade and shipping activities. Nevertheless, the maritime terrorism and the severe threats posed by pirates in the region have threatened the regional countries such as India and the GCC, subsequently; they are trying to develop strong maritime security architecture in West Asia. At the present, India and the Gulf countries have convergence of interests in the field of maritime strategy, and this is the right time for India to take greater responsibilities in the region and prepared for the challenges ‘in the future. It is in India’s geo-political interest to have naval foots on the grounds in the West Asia region, and the development of Iran’s Chahbahar port is a best example of India’s successful Maritime diplomacy in West Asia. We need to have strong relati