chapter  16
Maritime challenges and priorities in Asia: an Indian perspective
ByPRABHAKARAN PALERI
Pages 12

The maritime challenges that India faces are similar to those of other nations. It is the threat factor that varies. India has always been a threat attractor. The country has sufficient security forces and agencies, and a stable governmental system. However, its maritime governance will require systematic orientation of policies and practices if the country is to face challenges at sea and from the sea. The chapter examines India’s perspectives against this background. Although the global perspective of the ocean is changing, there is a certain degree of invariance1 in the challenges and imperatives that nations face at sea. The lack of variance is obvious in both military and non-military statements that determine the strategic context. The current challenges are more or less at invariance with those of the past. In other words, they remain unaltered. They include the possibility of military intervention under the conditions of the laws of war or otherwise,2 unlawful activities such as terrorism and piracy, and the destructive forces of nature that may cause mayhem in national governance. It is the approaches of the nations that may differ as time passes. Perhaps the greatest challenge that nations and other geostrategic entities face is in fine-tuning their maritime interests and their approaches to policy. This fault-line in national mari time thinking and approach is evident when incidents, such as the Mumbai massacre of 26 November 20083 or the escalation of piracy around the Horn of Africa, are dissected on the analyst’s table. Maritime challenges affect every geostrategic entity. The author has identified 272 geostrategic territorial entities, comprising landlocked, coastal and island states and their island territories, in a global perspective in a study carried out in 2008.4 Such an investigation was necessary to understand the gravity of maritime challenges and their impact on the entities identified. Of these, 192 were members of the United Nations. Irrespective of their geostrategic distinctiveness, every entity, including those that are landlocked, faced the impact of maritime challenges. Some of the landlocked entities also have maritime military and non-military forces. Many of these entities are active and participating members of international maritime organisations or parties to maritime agreements out of sheer necessity. This speaks volumes about the appreciation of these countries about the impact of maritime challenges on their national security matters.