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. Navies are being
openly deployed for joint exercises to re-enforce alliances and proclaim military dominance.
The naval deployments have started to see a massive shift towards submarine operations.
Even in India, there is a decisive mandate for enhancing our submarine fleet both on the
strategic as well as conventional platforms. The entire Southeast Asia is seeing a significant
push towards submarine acquisition. Submarine operations is a completely different paradigm
in naval operations and brings in, a whole new dimension to the naval engagement for self and
the adversary. A very complex naval theatre seems to be emerging in the Indo-Pacific for naval
operations to be conducted in future, and it does requires far better situational awareness. The
AUKUS is the latest development that will have far reaching ramifications on multiple fronts.
The political volatility in the IOR and the SCS, also brings in the non-state actors almost working
in cohort with the maritime forces. The disruptive edge these non-state actors enjoy over the
conventional maritime forces, further increases the asymmetry of their deployment. The
increasing piracy and maritime terrorism incidents in the IOR and the SCS is a manifestation
of the deep rooted nexus between the nations and these subversive elements. Thus, the
conventional means of operational deployment of the maritime forces need to be relooked at,
while we plan our strategic objectives in the future. The AUKUS is one of the unique and
strategic partnership with significant military focus on the underwater domain. The nuclear
submarine deal and the AI based cyber security aspects will bring new alignments and probably
reshape old partnerships. The geopolitical and geostrategic realignment needs to be
understood in a strategic maritime context.
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. Acoustic capacity and capability building for effective UDA,
is inescapable to effective manage the emerging maritime concerns in the emerging global
order, particularly in the tropical littoral waters of the Indo-Pacific Strategic Space. More
focussed UDA is required with collective participation from all the stakeholder, beyond the
security establishment. India has to position itself in the new global order and focus on the
policy and technology interventions to deal with such new developments.
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