The NSA Shri Ajit Doval inaugurated the first meeting of the MultiAgency Maritime Security Group (MAMSG) to discuss important policy matters impacting maritime security. The meeting was chaired by the National Maritime Security Coordinator Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd), who assumed charge as the country’s first NMSC on 1 6th February this year. The group has members from key Central Ministries, Agencies and Security Forces dealing with maritime affairs and State Maritime Security Coordinators representing all 13 coastal States and UTs. The CNS and Deputy NSAs from NSCS were also present.
In a major decision to reform coordination of maritime security affairs at the apex level, in November last year, the Cabinet had approved the creation of the post of NMSC, under the NSA, at the National Security Council Secretariat. With this decision, a longstanding recommendation of the 2001 Group of Ministers (GOM) Report on ‘Reforming the National Security System’ got implemented. This reform is intended to ensure a seamless approach to India’s maritime security cutting across geographical and functional domains. The constitution of the MAMSG by bringing together diverse stakeholders at the Centre and coastal States/UTs is a significant step in that direction.
In his opening remarks, emphasising the salience of maritime security in an increasingly complex and challenging landscape, the NSA underscored the need for seamless coordination.
In the last few years, the Government has given special attention to the maritime domain as enunciated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in the SAGAR initiative in 2015, the announcement of India’s Indo-Pacific Policy in 2018 as well as growing focus on the blue economy.
India is a maritime nation with interests that extend well beyond our maritime zones. 95% of Indian trade by volume is maritime and routed via 12 major and over 200 non-major ports. Over 90% of our hydrocarbon requirements are met through seaborne imports and offshore production.
With over three lakh fishing vessels, the marine fisheries sector is a major contributor to the economy and livelihood of the fishing community. As India’s economy grows, so will its dependence on sea borne trade and maritime resources. Securing our maritime interests from a range of threats and challenges necessitates a coordinated approach. Maritime security has, therefore, rightfully gained prominence in India’s security discourse as well as international outreach. While chairing the UN Security Council High Level Open Debate on Enhancing Maritime Security in August last year, the Prime Minister had exhorted for an inclusive approach for a safe, secure and stable maritime domain.
At the inaugural meeting, a number of crucial policy issues on maritime security were taken up, including mapping of existing orders and policies on maritime security to identify gaps, review of standard operating procedures for maritime contingencies, security of ports and coastal infrastructure, creation of a national maritime database, capacity building of coastal States and UTs, promotion of blue economy, etc. A separate session was dedicated to discussion with State Maritime Security Coordinators.
The MAMSG is envisaged to provide a standing and effective mechanism to ensure coordination of all aspects of maritime security including coastal and offshore security, as well as fill the institutional, policy, technological and operational gaps in meeting present and future security challenges. Importantly, the group will also address maritime contingencies requiring an urgent and coordinated response.
( Report – Pratyusha Mukherjee )