Maritime Strengths and Challenges for South Asia

Maritime Strengths and Challenges for South Asia

A stakeholder based analysis of Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will provide us with insight, critical for future political realignments. States in current dynamic political structures need to work on governance mechanisms to protect their national interests while extending cooperation to other states for peace and regional security. One can press on the need for development of a new maritime security governance framework to address the challenges threatening the regional security architecture. The use of maritime space for a common purpose creates room for shared objectives. Other than this, the stakeholders maneuvering in the IOR are subject to common risks and vulnerabilities. Sharing of common objectives and collectively facing challenges set the stage for effective risk treatment and vulnerability reduction efforts.

Maritime security is, therefore, a matter of vital importance for the national interests of states, as access to resources and their secure transportation are the drivers behind national growth and development. Against the back drop of maritime significance, states are taking initiatives to secure specific routes, ports and choke points. Despite this understanding, the existing security architecture is least effective in the region. The ineffectiveness of security architecture in the IOR can be traced to regional diversity along with chauvinistic self-interest. These are two primary hurdles that thwart the formation of an effective governance framework.

This policy brief lays out the rational need for regional powers to frame an action plan for preserving the maritime potential, not purely from a strategic perspective but also from multilateral perspectives of social, political, economic, human development and safety significance. The need of the time is to identify inter-linkages between direct and indirect security threats to determine the possibilities for a new model of governance along with identification of inter-state obligations.

Pakistan’s strategic importance in the maritime domain has been at the center of debate, particularly with the on-going development of the “Port of Gwadar” and how it may lead to a new economic architecture in the region and globally. However, the broader significance of the IOR lies in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative taken by China that includes Port of Gwadar under China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), aiming to strengthen regional connectivity.

The purpose of this study is to examine the need to strengthen maritime security governance, particularly in reference to Port of Gwadar and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.2 The rising significance of the IOR is central to the discussion on maritime security. The maritime involvement of different states in the IOR and the change in their strategic approach calls for strategic management of maritime potential as well as improvisation of the power kinetics through effective legal and governance framework and collaboration.

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