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Net Security Provider: Concept, India’s Potential in Indian Ocean Region

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Net Security Provider: Concept, India’s Potential in Indian Ocean Region!

Net Security Provider: Concept, India’s Potential in Indian Ocean Region

This article is important Current Affairs topic for: GS-II- India and its Neighborhood Relations , GS-III: Internal & External Security

Net security provider was a term first coined by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates for India at the 2009 Shangri-la Dialogue as they believed India to be a significant hub connecting all regions in the Indian ocean and this further motivated them to sell their military components and pursue their interest in joint patrols with India in that area.

Recently too, the US Congress has passed Section 1292 of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires and wishes for India to be prepared for addressing the increasing security concerns in the Indian Ocean region and also wishes to provide that help from its industries and its industrial partnership with India. Indian Navy too, in its 2015 maritime strategy, had promised to fulfill their oath of serving as “provider of net security in the region.” Following questions will further categorize this vast issue and help attain a better understanding:


What is Net Security Provider?

The definition of a net security provider is quite contextual and subjective. If simply put, a net security provider is a nation not only capable enough to address the hindrances in their security but also that of their neighboring countries and beyond. A net security provider can attend to the security concern of other countries in several ways. They are:

a) Capacity Building– By providing them training support through trainers to help grow their capacity to tackle security issues.

b) Military Diplomacy– By supplying them the support of its armed forces for various operations other than war. This practice helps achieve mutually beneficial foreign policy objectives and also includes military visits and interactive exercises.

c) Military Assistance– Help them to strengthen their defense and maintain their grip on their territory.

d) Direct Deployment– Direct deployment of its forces to help stabilize a situation.

Is India a net security provider?

Let’s analyze it by taking these four ways under consideration:

Capacity building

a) India has always been capable enough to provide capacity building to other countries in the region.

b) For example, Afghan National Army received a continuous and rigorous form of training from India. Indian Army is also known to train the Royal Bhutan Army and participate in joint patrols along the Bhutan-China border.

Military Diplomacy

India carried out a surfeit of military visits and exercises in the Indian Ocean region and also had been engaged in Biennial exercises of various countries in that area, exercises and activities such as Milan.

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An account of last two years of India’s bilateral/multilateral exercises is mentioned in the table below:

Military Assistance

There have been certain conditions imposing reservations to India’s arms and ammunitions trade with other countries and that also  is reason behind its majorly disappointing rank in the list of top exporters of arms. This arises because of two reasons:

1)India is continuously divided over the matter of export of lethal weapons because it goes against its vision of being a land of peace.

2)India is one of the largest arms importers as its domestic arms manufacturing industries are incapable of producing marketable weapons and other military-related components in significant quantities.

Direct Deployment

A) It is quite contentious if there is a direct deployment of troops to curb and end outcomes of war, conflict or disaster, but if the forces are deployed under “humanitarian purposes,” then the matter is much less controversial. But this is not as easy as it seems as stationing of military anywhere other than its own country’s ground, creates an unsettling murmur everywhere, leading to a matter of tension and negativity.  

B) During the war of 1971, India has managed to deploy its troops as far as in Sri Lanka {IPKF} and Bangladesh.

C) India also is the most extensive provider of forces to the UN for its peacekeeping missions, and its soldiers are frequently deployed to provide humanitarian relief in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, etc.

After going through all aspects carefully, it is safe to consider India as a net security provider for capacity building and military diplomacy. But it’s not a smooth sail when it comes to providing military assistance and direct deployment as there are certain structural and institutional handicaps.  Thus, as India fails to achieve all four, it cannot be considered as a  net security provider.

What are the vital security features for India in South Asia / Indian Ocean region to become a net security provider?

Both South Asia and areas of North-East Indian Ocean consider India as a rather amiable authority holding dominance over them and also regard it as their net security provider.  In the Indian Ocean, India has several security imperatives.

A) The Indian Ocean embodies a vital space required for India’s defense against potential threats that may emerge in that region.

B) If India can control the sea lines of communication that cross the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea and enter the Pacific Ocean through the Malacca Strait, then it can for sure have the upper hand and a better chance at dealing with its rival powers like China.

C) The area is not only prone to several non-state security threats that can hinder India’s interests and be an agonizing set of affairs, but it also requires a provision of regional nautical security provider, including dealing with piracy and smuggling, maritime terrorism, separatist movements and territorial disputes over offshore energy resources.

D) India wishes to extend its role further in Southeast Asia and the Pacific to balance and hopefully curb China’s growing influence and power.

Challenges faced by Indian Navy to be a Net security Provider?

Navy’s path to becoming a net security provider is filled with several challenges that range from conducting Maritime Military Operations (MMO), to protecting India’s vast coastline, to safeguarding Sea Lanes of Communications. The MMO requires the Indian Navy to attend to several issues such as piracy, smuggling, drug-trafficking, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, UN peace support operations and search and rescue operations, etc.

A) Indian Navy has the responsibility of safeguarding vast coastline, and this duty comes without any due authority as neither the Indian Navy nor the Coast Guard have any power to coordinate the activities of several agencies and departments working under 16 different ministries.

B) Indian Navy is facing problems with their blue water ambitions because of the lacking necessary defense-industrial base to support and ensure its smooth functioning. These requisites are generally imported from abroad and this impedes the Indian Navy’s maintenance and operational responsibilities and makes it difficult for it to pursue its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) and the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), which aims to have 200 warships by 2027.

C) Since 2008, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has slowly encroached the Indian Ocean region under the pretense of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and stealthily but firmly established its footing and influence in the area. China is using the 21st century Maritime Silk Road for keeping the littoral states away from India. PLAN has spread like a plague all over the Indian Ocean region and established its bases in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives. Upon comparing, PLAN warships are far more stabilized and agile as compared to the Indian warships.

What is the Way Forward?

Indian Navy has a lot of mending to do, and its plate is overflowing with it. To be a vital authority figure in the Indo-Pacific, it should improve its operational and maintenance limitations and also focus on upgrading its military capacity. The way forward will only be determined and achieved if the paucity of trust amongst the nations is overcome and the level of coordination and collaboration amongst them is increased to enhance the robust maritime governance structures. A collective approach towards resources, resolving naval threats and challenges should also be put to action. The regional organizations can work towards promoting better cooperation through the operational exchange, information sharing, etc., which would only inculcate a sense of unity and team responsibility and ownership in the countries. Hence, it can be said that India has become one of the most dependable and good-natured friends to the regional maritime forces in its attempts to become a“net security provider” in the Indian Ocean. The concern of the hour is that India still has to put in a lot of efforts to tackle its Navy’s operational handicaps that pose a threat to its strategic priorities.

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