Navy chief: "Operationalise Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)" - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 23 November 2022

Navy chief: "Operationalise Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)"

Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar (right), flanked by Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan (left) walking in for the opening of the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD)

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 24th Nov 22


With China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N),flexing its muscles in the Western Pacific and extending its presence to the waters of the Indian Ocean, India’s navy is countering by leading the creation of a new, broad-based security architecture in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).


On Wednesday, at the 4th edition of the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD), Navy Chief, Admiral R Hari Kumar, proposed that the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched in 2019, should now be operationalised. 


That would mean making active one, or more, of the seven pillars of the IPOI, of which four have India as the lead: maritime security, disaster risk reduction, capacity building and trade connectivity and maritime transport.


“Being a global, open initiative, IPOI affords equal opportunity to every stakeholder, and respects their sovereignty and freedom of choice. The IPOI is not aimed at creating new institutions, but rather, seeks to leverage existing mechanisms by drawing convergences and identifying areas of mutual interest,” said Kumar.


That India would raise the proposal to bring the IPOI into action was predictable from the theme of the conference: “Operationalising the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.”


The Indian Navy had already created a bouquet of initiatives and structures to manage the Indian Ocean. These include the MILAN (confluence) series of exercises in 1995; the IOR-ARC (Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation) in 1997; IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium) in 2008; the IMAC (Information Management and Analysis Centre) in 2014; and the IFC-IOR (Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region) in 2018.


“Speaking of the IPOI, to my mind, it represents the broadest framework conceptualised so far in the Indo-Pacific. It is guided by India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific – that is a “free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous region,” said the navy chief.


New Delhi has been propagating the US-led notions of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), freedom of navigation and overflight, and Modi’s own personal initiative of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), which became a New Delhi slogan in 2015. These were pursued through the multilateral bodies created by the Indian Navy.


Getting into the act later, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi set up an Indo-Pacific Wing in 2019, with the aim of integrating the various bodies under a single Indo-Pacific umbrella. In 2020, the MEA went further, establishing an Oceana Division, which was made responsible for the region from the Andaman Sea to the Western Pacific.


This coincides to a great extent with the maritime space that Beijing refers to as the “First Island Chain” and seeks to dominate completely, in the manner of the US when, as an emerging superpower, it enforced the Monroe Doctrine in its neighbourhood. 



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