India and challenges ahead in the Indo-Pacific region: Opportunities for cooperation with the EU

30-05-2017

Lying in the middle of the Indian Ocean, India relies heavily on the ocean for its energy and trade, but also faces both conventional and non-conventional security challenges which the ocean presents. At the same time, its operational theatre is widening to include a bigger geopolitical region: the Indo-Pacific, including the South China Sea. Alongside this broadening horizon, India needs to reckon with an emerging actor: China. Not only has Beijing's military presence in the Indian Ocean increased considerably, but it has been planning naval bases and civilian port infrastructure in a region in which India has traditionally enjoyed maritime prominence. China's 'string of pearls' strategy has left New Delhi feeling 'encircled'. Major efforts to modernise the Indian navy and to enhance cooperation and alliances in the region suggest that India is taking the challenge seriously. However, missing from this framework are a comprehensive maritime policy, a single body in charge of coordinating Indian maritime policies and interests, and a more developed shipbuilding sector. Besides, there is no effective agreement or mechanism for multilateral cooperation on maritime security in the Indian Ocean. Since 2008, the EU has been a successful net security provider in the western part of the Indo-Pacific region through its Operation Atalanta / EU NAVFOR Somalia anti-piracy deployment. Adopted in 2014, the EU's new maritime security strategy offers opportunities to further develop its cooperation with India on maritime issues and in particular on non-conventional security issues, in order to upgrade bilateral relations.

Lying in the middle of the Indian Ocean, India relies heavily on the ocean for its energy and trade, but also faces both conventional and non-conventional security challenges which the ocean presents. At the same time, its operational theatre is widening to include a bigger geopolitical region: the Indo-Pacific, including the South China Sea. Alongside this broadening horizon, India needs to reckon with an emerging actor: China. Not only has Beijing's military presence in the Indian Ocean increased considerably, but it has been planning naval bases and civilian port infrastructure in a region in which India has traditionally enjoyed maritime prominence. China's 'string of pearls' strategy has left New Delhi feeling 'encircled'. Major efforts to modernise the Indian navy and to enhance cooperation and alliances in the region suggest that India is taking the challenge seriously. However, missing from this framework are a comprehensive maritime policy, a single body in charge of coordinating Indian maritime policies and interests, and a more developed shipbuilding sector. Besides, there is no effective agreement or mechanism for multilateral cooperation on maritime security in the Indian Ocean. Since 2008, the EU has been a successful net security provider in the western part of the Indo-Pacific region through its Operation Atalanta / EU NAVFOR Somalia anti-piracy deployment. Adopted in 2014, the EU's new maritime security strategy offers opportunities to further develop its cooperation with India on maritime issues and in particular on non-conventional security issues, in order to upgrade bilateral relations.