The Indo-Pacific strategic space has gained substantial relevance in the last five years due to multiple reasons ranging from political, socio-economic, military and more. The geopolitical and geo-strategic developments have a significant bearing on the maritime interaction between the nations in the region and also the extra-regional powers. The global powers (geographically far removed) have deployed significant assets in the region to ensure their strategic presence and continue to build their maritime deployments in the region. Such strategic presence builds asymmetry in terms of the access to the maritime resources and also from a security and political stand point. Policy frameworks need to be put in place to bring far more equality and equity across the global commons and more so in these strategically relevant regions. Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is the only way forward to build such policy frameworks for enhanced maritime governance.
The traditional MDA got significant push post the 9/11 incident and the American establishment made it a high priority strategic objective. Massive maritime infrastructure and capacity building efforts took shape within the US and through their allies to ensure effective MDA. In India, post the 26/11 incident, similar efforts were initiated and the MDA infrastructure got prioritized in the IOR. However, in both the cases, being an event driven initiative, it remained a security centric formulation with minimal penetration with the other stakeholders. The MDA that we see today is largely limited to the sea surface and the underwater component is still a work in progress, even in the US led effort. The Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) will require, very specialized focus and high end Science & Technology (S&T) support.
The UDA in the tropical littoral waters of the Indo-Pacific Strategic Space has some very unique challenges and opportunities. The sub-optimal sonar performance is a major impediment to any UDA initiative. The socio-economic status of the nations in the region is a major road block for maritime governance and also prioritizing S&T for enhancing sonar performance with indigenous efforts is a cause of concern. The extraregional powers continue to push their hardware with least performance in the tropical littoral waters. “Digital Oceans” today can have a far greater relevance particularly in the tropical littoral waters of the Indo-Pacific Strategic Space. It will encourage Safe, Secure, Sustainable Growth for all in the region.
The UDA framework proposed by the Maritime Research Centre (MRC), Pune tries to encourage pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts across the stakeholders, namely the maritime security, blue economy, environment & disaster management and the science & technology providers. The framework can minimize the ongoing fragmented approach across stakeholders within the nations and also among the nations in the region. The UN has declared 2021-2030 as the Decade of the Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and it does presents a great opportunity for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and still retain the pace of blue economic growth. In particular the SDG-14 focuses on Life below Water and has received least attention in the Indo-Pacific Region.
The Maritime Research Centre (MRC), Pune in collaboration with M/S NirDhwani Technology Pvt Ltd (NDT) is hosting a webinar titled “Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework for Enhanced Maritime Governance in the Indo-Pacific Region” on the 31 Jul 2021 at 1600 hrs. The event will bring together the experts and strategist across multiple domains to deliberate on this very important topic, given the ongoing geopolitical and geo-strategic developments in the region. The attempt is to identify the gaps and evolve synergy among the stakeholders and policy makers across the region. The capacity and capability building is a critical aspect, however it does take sustained effort and nuanced approach within and across nations. The high level dialogue will deliberate on all the dimensions, relevant for the development of a way ahead. The Indo part of the Indo-Pacific will carry more meaning with an effective UDA framework at the national, regional and global level.
The MRC will prepare and submit an action-oriented outcome document to the authorities and agencies within and outside the government and beyond for sensitisation and further action.