What are the challenges faced by the Indian government to ensure coastal and maritime security? Discuss the possible impacts of the "Quad"or "Strategic Quadrilateral"initiative on India's maritime security.

Maritime security has many dimensions. India has a 7,517 km-long coastline of which 5,423 km covers the mainland and 2,094 km encircles Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Besides, with the available state of resources (both technological and in terms of manpower) it is difficult to guard the entire coastline in a fool-proof manner.
Various challenge faced by Indian government to ensure coastal and maritime security

  • Penetration by non-state actors and terror attacks on population centres along the coast, vital installations like atomic power plants, oil platforms, naval/ military/coast guard bases and industrial centres.
  • Threats posed by organized gangs carrying out smuggling of narcotics, arms and explosives.
  • Vulnerability of the Indian coast to illegal inflow of migrants and refugees from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, especially along the Odisha and Tamil Nadu coasts.
  • Import dependence of India. Every piece of hardware that the Indian armed forces acquire from abroad places them at the mercy of the seller nation for the lifetime of the equipment.
  • There is no single government agency, which has either the span of responsibility or the authority to act as the focal point for India’s maritime policies and interests. As many as sixteen different ministries, departments or organizations (including the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard) are involved in ocean related matters and most of the time there is complete lack of coordination between the different organs of the government. 
  • Poor Infrastructure in the ports and harbors. Badly congested, poorly managed and lacking in facilities for dredging, mechanization and storage, they are grossly inadequate to meet thetrade and security challenges.
  • India’s merchant fleet, 15th largest in the world, has been almost static, for some years, at 1000 ships totaling 10 million tons. 
  • India’s naval leadership has remained steadfast in their resolve to have it built in Indian shipyards; even in the face of acute skepticism. Regrettably, this commitment to indigenization has not been reciprocated by the industry with equal passion.
  • Chinas maritime silk route is dubbed as String of pearls and an initiative to encircle and contain India.

Implications of Quad in maritime security
Strategic quadrilateral initiative is an informal strategic initiate between India. US, Japan and Canada. By emphasizing the “Act East Policy as the cornerstone of its engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” India has indicated that the Quad would be an extension of that policy. 

  • China’s increased presence in the Indian Ocean region is a strategic threat for India. Quad can be an opportunity for India to counter the influence of China in the region.
  • To strengthen its role as a net security provider in the region India is emphasising on the concept of Indo-pacific. The Quad initiative can strengthen the notion of Indo-pacific.
  • Quad provides for cooperation and collaboration among the four maritime powers of the region. This will aid in knowledge sharing, strategizing, and sharing of best practices which will aid in strengthening India’s maritime capabilities.
  • Strengthening of mechanisms of safeguarding exclusive economic zones, or EEZs.  In addition to strengthening maritime patrols of their own waters and assisting smaller states in their coastal defenses, the Quad could serve as a public coalition to speak out against these EEZ violations. 
  • Pirates and increasing tensions in global geopolitics is threatening the rule of law and freedom of navigation. Quad can be a mechanism to address the challenges of piracy and upholding freedom of navigation in the Indo-pacific.

Quad members are the region’s four most capable maritime powers. Quad could serve as a platform to tackle some of the important maritime issues that require coordination in today’s strategic environment.

Question for UPSC Mains:
What are the challenges faced by the Indian government to ensure coastal and maritime security? Discuss the possible impacts of the “Quad” or “Strategic Quadrilateral” initiative on India’s maritime security. {250 words, 15 Marks}

Published: May 3, 2018 | Modified:October 15, 2020