India needs comprehensive Indian Ocean policy: Experts

Kolkata, Aug 6 (IANS) Experts here on Thursday called for a “comprehensive Indian Ocean strategy” to secure India’s maritime interests as well as to counter the growing Chinese influence.

Participating at a Global India Foundation organised event on “India and Global Balance of Power”, speakers like former Indian Navy vice chief Vice Admiral P.J. Jacob and retired Indian Army vice chief Lt. Gen. A.S. Lamba stressed the need for developing more economic and defence ties with countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

“China will continue to push its arena, it is extending its influence in Pakistan, endeavouring to penetrate into Myanmar and other countries to come directly into the Indian Ocean. To counter this strategy, it is imperative that India parks itself into all the nations in the Indian Ocean region (IOR),” said Lamba.

“It’s time India developed a comprehensive Indian Ocean Strategy and along with the maritime and defence ties that we have with some of the nations, it is imperative that we all the nations in the IOR along with Sri Lanka in our scheme of things and extend our cooperation,” added Lamba.

The former army officer also lauded the proactive foreign policy pursued by the Narendra Modi government and said the prime minister’s recent visit to Mauritius and Seychelles has given a new dimension to India’s strategic influence in the IOR.

Harping on the importance of the IOR, Jacob pointed out to the benefits of a collective security regime in alliance with regional powers.

“The IOR is the world’s energy lifeline as around 1,000 million tonnes of oil transit is these waters annually, considering its geographic location, India is in a position to greatly contribute to the maritime security in the region,” said Jacob.

“Along with independent maritime security police, India must also look at the benefits of a collective security regime, especially in alliance with regional as well as extra-regional powers like the US and China,” said Jacob, adding that India needs to “get used” to Chinese presence in the region.

Foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan stressed the need for India to have an assertive foreign policy.

“India has been more like a linesman in a football match, restricting itself to calling ‘offside’ to the US or China, instead of playing the game on the field.

“Today, India being the seventh largest economy, its capacity to change the world becomes that much large but for that requires the quest for strategic influence and not strategic autonomy or non-alignment. Big countries construct the world order and don’t run away from others,” said Raja Mohan.

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