Indo-Sri Lankan Relations and the BIMSTEC: A New Perspective based on the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework

About Event

The global power play has decisively shifted to the tropical littoral waters of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the South China Sea (SCS). The ongoing global order is seeing a massive churn in international relations. The rapid rise of China and the relative decline in the American hegemony has given rise to enhanced contestation and confrontation, largely on economic and political matters that have led to brinkmanship on the military front as well. The pandemic has brought a new set of alignment among nations and also among adversaries. The importance of regional alliances and frameworks cannot be undermined in the new global era. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), particularly has unique challenges and opportunities on multiple fronts namely, political, economic, culturally, militarily and more. It is important to understand these issues before we even attempt to formulate our strategic vision.

The Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) declaration by the Honourable prime Minister recognizes the security concerns and the blue economic opportunities that exist in the IOR. It also pronounces the leadership role India wants to play in the region. India on its part has taken up multiple initiatives to build on the SAGAR vision both internally and externally. Mega projects have been announced to support the capacity & capability building internally, like the Sagarmala, Bharatmale and more. Externally the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and more are some such initiatives. The BIMSTEC member states – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal. The BIMSTEC is an extremely critical group, where socio-culturally and socio-politically we have significant synergies and building on the regional strategic and economic framework will make lot of sense. The Indo-Sri Lankan relations can be a major catalyst in taking forward the BIMSTEC activities to the next level. The geography and the socio-cultural connect can be leveraged for evolving a regional framework.

The Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), received significant traction globally post the 9/11 incident, and in the IOR, the 26/11 was a similar trigger to build MDA infrastructure. However, it is important to note that the MDA so devised, remained a security driven formulation with minimal penetration into the other stakeholders, resulting in constrained budgetary allocations only from the defence spending. The most critical fall-out of this security driven formulation was that the underwater component of the MDA that may be referred as Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) remained far neglected and could not be main streamed into the Science & Technology (S&T) developments. The UDA framework proposed by the Maritime Research Centre (MRC), encourages pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts across the stakeholders and can be a strategic formulation to build on the SAGAR vision. The safe, secure, sustainable growth model supported by the UDA framework can be the mainstay for the BIMSTEC interactions. The unique geopolitical and geostrategic challenges and opportunities in the Bay of Bengal region can effectively be managed by the proposed UDA framework. The UDA framework builds on the policy & technology interventions along with the acoustic capacity & capability building required for peace & prosperity in the region.

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    The Maritime Research Center (MRC), Pune is a not-for-profit, Section 8 company registered with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), as Foundation for Underwater Domain Awareness.

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    Address: Maritime Research Center, Koregaon Bhima, Pune, Maharashtra – 412216

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    The conventional approach of each of the stakeholders pursuing their own UDA* efforts has serious limitations given the highly resource intensive field experimental research initiative required for a long period. Click here for more