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The Rediff Interview/

February 28, 2005

The 21st century is going to be a maritime century. The globalisation of the world economy and its impact on global sea-borne trade, energy imperatives and growing dependence on sea resources, all point towards the growing importance of the seas,'  Indian Navy chief Arun Prakash tells Bharat Verma in the fourth and final part of the interview.

Part I: 'We have a long way to go'

Part II: 'Time is running out'

Part III: 'There is no future in importing weapons'

The MTCR (missile technology control regime) denies India technologies for missiles beyond the 300 km range. How do we overcome this problem besides stressing on indigenous R&D, to meet our legitimate security requirement?

Technology denial is a deliberate strategy to ensure disparity in capabilities.

My view is that we cannot complain too much over this, as each country will act to protect its national interest. Hence, we need to firstly identify and deal with countries willing to share technologies with us.

Secondly, and more importantly, we need to develop our indigenous R&D capability.

As I said earlier, in the short term we should be ready to accept a slightly lower capability from our indigenous equipment, so that our scientists receive encouragement, and we can benefit in the long run.

A typical example is the development of cryogenic engines for launching our satellites, which was made the subject of technology denial earlier and which our scientists subsequently mastered.

I am convinced, that a few years down the line, technology denial regimes are not going to bother us too much.

Do you think there is need to set up a central maritime board or any such organisation to postulate policy, coordinate and manage all maritime activities of this country?

Absolutely; today there are a plethora of agencies dealing with maritime matters, which encompass a diverse range of activities like oil and natural gas, fisheries, excise and customs, immigration, pollution control, tourism, transport, infrastructure development and defence.

If you notice, defence is just one of the issues in the maritime arena, albeit the vital one.

Hence, there is a need for a National Maritime Policy to ensure that the management of India's ocean and coastal zones is politically correct, economically sustainable, socially responsible and culturally sensitive with a view to safeguard our national interest at all times.

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In recent years, terrorism has acquired a growing maritime dimension as terrorists find the open highways of the oceans a convenient way of moving men and materials. There are also fears expressed of terrorists using merchant ships for transporting WMD or using them as a WMD.

The only two agencies with the wherewithal and means to actually go out to sea and do something, are the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. Therefore, synergy of national security resources is now vital.

Hence, establishment of a National Maritime Commission is important to protect our maritime interests in an integrated manner. The Commission will comprise representatives from all organisations connected to the seas and will be a 'one-stop shop' to take decisions on all maritime issues.

The issue is now before the government and we hope a decision on this will be forthcoming shortly.

What is your concept of maritime power in the present global order? How would you envision India's growth as a maritime power?

The 21st century is going to be a maritime century.

The globalisation of the world economy and its impact on global sea-borne trade, energy imperatives and growing dependence on sea resources, all point towards the growing importance of the seas.

These developments are extremely important for India due to our reliance on the sea for trade, energy resources and food resources.

In fact, over a century ago, the famous American maritime strategist, Admiral Mahan had stated, 'Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia.' He further went on to predict that 'in the 21st century the destiny of the world will be decided upon its waters.'

Today that prediction appears to be coming true. While we have no wish to dominate anything, we need to ensure that nobody else is in a position to do so, or to dictate terms to us either.

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A capable navy is only one element of a maritime power.

A large merchant fleet, modern ports with good infrastructure, a vibrant, efficient and self-reliant shipbuilding industry along with its supporting technical infrastructure are some of the other vital elements of maritime power which we need to concentrate upon.

The key, however, lies in the populace having a maritime temperament and outlook.

Indians in general, need to acknowledge that if not a 'maritime nation' (yet), we certainly are a nation dependant on the seas, and need to look more seawards than inwards.

Such a realisation is especially vital for people at what is called the decision-making, or 'Grand-Strategic Level' of security planning. Only then can we stake our claim to be a true maritime power.

Courtesy: Indian Defence Review

Image: Uday Kuckian


The Rediff Interviews

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