Need of both Maritime and Continental Strategy – UPSC GS3

How India has progressed in terms of Maritime security?
India has taken many ambitious steps to correct the historic neglect of India’s maritime power and also as a response to the dramatic rise of China as a military power :
  • National Maritime Strategy,
  • Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative for the Indian Ocean Region
  • Initiatives relating to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad.
Why focusing only on Maritime security is not sufficient for India’s security interest?
  • Maritime security is important to keep sea lanes open for trade, commerce, and freedom of navigation.
  • It will aid in resisting Chinese territorial aggrandizement in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
  • It will also help littoral states resist Chinese bullying tactics in interstate relations.
  • However, maritime security alone is not sufficient for India to deter Chinese unilateral actions and the emergence of a unipolar Asia.
  • Because China’s rise is not merely in the maritime domain. It is expanding on the Eurasian continent. For example, Belt and Road Initiative projects in Central Asia and its dependency-creating investments, cyber and digital penetration across the Eurasian continent.
  • Hence, a continental strategy focusing on the Eurasian continent is necessary for India.
Why focusing on Eurasia is important for India?
  • For India’s continental strategy, the Central Asian region is an indispensable link as India is faced with Border and connectivity issues.  For example,
  • A persistent two-front threat from Pakistan and China.
  • Increased militarisation of the borders with Pakistan and China
  • India has been subject for over five decades to a land embargo by Pakistan
  • Difficulties have arisen in operationalising an alternative route through the International North-South Transport Corridor on account of the U.S.’s hostile attitude towards Iran
  • With the recent Afghan developments, India’s physical connectivity challenges with Eurasia have worsened.
Why evolving an effective continental strategy focusing on Eurasia will be a complex and long-term exercise for India?
  • Eurasian continent is presented with many challenges currently, so this will not be easy for India as we would need to work with different partners on different agendas. For example,
  • The assertive rise of China.
  • The withdrawal of forces of the United States/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from Afghanistan.
  • The rise of Islamic fundamentalist forces
  • The changing dynamics of the historic stabilising role of Russia (most recently in Kazakhstan).
  • Interests in multilateral mechanisms of that region. For example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Union
  • Threat to Eurasian Security due to the ongoing rivalry between the U.S and Russia confrontation relating to Ukraine, Russian opposition to future NATO expansion, and new deployment of intermediate-range missiles.
Way Forward:
  • India needs to acquire strategic vision and deploy the necessary resources to pursue our continental interests without ignoring our interests in the maritime domain.
  • India should push for our continental rights, namely that of transit and access, working with our partners in Central Asia, with Iran and Russia.
  • Need for more proactive engagement with economic and security agendas ranging from the SCO, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
  • Stabilising Afghanistan is also necessary.
  • India will need to define its own parameters of continental and maritime security consistent with its own interests.
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