Maritime Challenges: Resilient Adaptability in the Global South

Maritime Challenges: Resilient Adaptability in the Global South


Adapting to the evolving challenges in the maritime domain is crucial for human progress, echoing Charles Darwin’s principle of survival through adaptability. Recent developments show a shift in maritime threats, with unconventional challenges such as illegal fishing, natural disasters, and climate change taking center stage alongside traditional security concerns.


GS-03, GS-02 (Security) (India and its Neighbourhood)

Mains Question:

Discuss the implications of the maritime security challenges faced by Global South on regional cooperation, sustainable development, and the quest for a collective security architecture. (150 words)

Significance of Maritime Security:

General Significance: Maritime security holds paramount importance globally, encompassing concerns such as piracy, illegal immigration, weapon smuggling, terrorist threats, and environmental disasters.

Specific Significance for India:

1. National Security: Given India’s extensive coastline of over 7,000 km, maritime security becomes integral to national security.

2. Trade Importance: With the majority of India’s imports and exports traversing the Indian Ocean shipping lanes, securing Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) is critical in the 21st century.

Present Maritime Security Mechanism in India:

India’s coastal security operates on a three-tiered structure involving the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, and State Coastal/Marine Police. This ensures comprehensive coverage from the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) to shallow coastal areas.

India’s Initiatives for Maritime Security:

1. Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) Policy: Introduced in 2015, SAGAR emphasizes India’s role as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region, promoting maritime security capacities and economic resilience in friendly countries.

2. Adherence to International Law: India reaffirms commitment to the UN Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, ensuring respect for the rights of all nations.

3. Data Sharing: Establishment of the International Fusion Centre (IFC) in Gurugram in 2018, jointly administered by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard, enhances Maritime Domain Awareness on safety and security issues.

4. Anti-Piracy Operations: Actively participating in UNSC-mandated initiatives, such as the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia, demonstrates India’s commitment to combat piracy.

Challenges Hindering India’s Maritime Role:

1. Infrastructure Constraints: Inadequate shipbuilding, repair facilities, and hinterland connectivity impede integrated development.

2. Delayed Posting of Liaison Officers: Proposals to post Indian Naval Liaison Officers in strategic centers, including the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar and the European-led mission in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH), face prolonged delays.

3. Chinese Dominance: China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea pose challenges to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, highlighting the complexity of maritime security.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Evolving Threat Landscape
  • Regional Coordination Challenges
  • Creative Models for Maritime Security
  • Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative
  • Challenges in Implementing Collaborative Strategies

Evolving Threat Landscape

  • The maritime domain witnesses a shift in security challenges, with unconventional threats like illegal fishing, marine pollution, and climate change gaining prominence.
  • Littoral states in the Global South are particularly vulnerable to these issues, impacting their economic, environmental, and human security.
  • Global South’s Perceptions: There is a prevailing belief in the Global South that the Indo-Pacific’s zero-sum competition among powerful nations negatively affects developing countries.
    • The interconnected security agenda, spanning national, environmental, economic, and human security goals, poses challenges for less developed states.
    • Rising sea levels, climate change, and natural disasters disproportionately affect these nations, exacerbating their vulnerability.

Regional Coordination Challenges:

  • Littoral states in Asia and Africa face disparities in law enforcement capabilities and exhibit reluctance to engage in coordinated maritime security efforts.
  • Varying security priorities, resistance to foreign collaboration, and limited willingness to share information hinder effective cooperation against shared threats like piracy and maritime terrorism.
  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing poses a significant challenge in Asia and Africa. Faulty policies, lenient regulations, lax law enforcement, and harmful subsidies contribute to the proliferation of destructive fishing methods.

Creative Models for Maritime Security

  • Maritime security extends beyond military action, emphasizing prosperity and people’s aspirations.
  • India’s Maritime Vision 2030 and Dhaka’s Indo-Pacific document highlight creative models focusing on economic development, job creation, and resource protection.
  • The concept of a thriving Blue Economy gains traction in Africa, showcasing a developmental approach to maritime security.

Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative

  • India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative presents a comprehensive approach to maritime challenges, encompassing pillars like maritime ecology, marine resources, capacity building, and disaster risk reduction. The initiative emphasizes the need for collective solutions and has garnered support from major Indo-Pacific states.

Challenges in Implementing Collaborative Strategies

  • Implementing collaborative maritime security strategies faces hurdles such as improving interoperability among maritime agencies, sharing intelligence, and establishing a rules-based order.
  • Many states prioritize sovereignty and strategic independence over collective action, hindering consensus in the Global South.
  • The collective challenges faced by developing nations and their pursuit of creative solutions paradoxically clash with their desire for political and strategic autonomy. Balancing the need for a cooperative security architecture with concerns about sovereignty remains a key challenge.

Way Forward:

The Global South must overcome reluctance to collaborate, fostering regional coordination to combat shared challenges effectively.

  • Embracing creative models, sustainable practices, and initiatives like the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative can pave the way for a more secure and prosperous maritime future.
  • As nations adapt to evolving maritime dynamics, the quest for resilient adaptability remains paramount, echoing Darwin’s timeless wisdom in the face of changing environments.