Extra-regional nations maintaining near permanent presence in Indian Ocean: Sitharaman

Extra regional nations maintaining near permanent presence inPANAJI: Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today voiced concern over increased militarization and extra-regional nations maintaining a near permanent presence in the Indian Ocean region on “some pretext or the other”.

This sort of militarization increases complexities for the countries in the region, she said.

“The Indian Ocean has been peaceful over past few decades. However, our collective decision to capitalize on this or not and how we counter the emerging challenges will significantly influence the regional peace and security in future,” she said.

The minister, who did not name any country, was addressing the inaugural function of the Goa Maritime Conclave, which aims to address the maritime challenges in the region.

An increased militarization in the Indian Ocean has manifested in two interconnected forms in the region, Sitharaman said.

“We have also witnessed extra-regional nations maintain a near permanent presence within the region on one pretext or the other,” she said.

“In order to sustain such a presence through operational turnaround, these countries, which are extra-regional, are creating naval outposts as well as dual use infrastructure in the region. This sort of militarization increases the complexities for the countries of this region,” Sitharaman said.

The defense minister also expressed concern over the emergence of non-state actors in the region.

“The concept of non-state actors is not something new as the countries are dealing with this issue both at land and at sea since time immemorial,” she said.

“However, the recent surge in the number of non-state actors, when juxtaposed with the support they enjoy from certain states, their enhanced reach as well as access to the resources has brought the issue to the forefront and demands a firm action,” she said.

Referring to the ‘blue economy’, the Union minister said the sea bed has emerged as a futuristic and abundant source of relatively pure minerals, thereby adding to the ocean’s economic potential.

“The progress achieved and the efforts to harness clean and renewable energy sources through off shore energy firms add a whole new dimension to the possible economic and strategic impact of the ocean on countries of this region,” Sitharaman said.

While it is good that the compulsion of globalization has enabled economics to shape relationships between nations, the opaqueness in strategic intent by certain nations is preventing these very relations from evolving beyond a transactional nature, she added.-PTI

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