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As India again shifts its gaze to seas, I see signs of aspiring maritime power: Navy chief


Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant moves to the sea in Kochi, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar has said as India once again shifts its gaze to the seas for economic growth, he sees "signs of an aspiring maritime power".

In his address at an event hosted by the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) here on Thursday, Admiral Kumar also said there has been a "substantial contribution" of this think-tank even towards formalising the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act of 2022, which is seldom recognised.

"As we navigate the evolving complexities in the region, marked by ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East and the emergence of non-traditional threats, a deeper understanding of the evolving geopolitical dynamics, along with associated strategies to counter these challenges, becomes an imperative, making the NMF's role even more critical today," he said.

Notably, the NMF collaborated with the Navy towards formulating the landmark Indian Maritime Security Strategy (IMSS) released in 2015. The document "continues to guide the Navy's efforts in protecting, preserving, promoting and pursuing our national interests in the maritime domain", Admiral Kumar said.

The foundation's contributions to this strategic document underscore its profound understanding of maritime challenges, dedicated to shaping effective responses, the Navy chief added.

He was delivering the inaugural address at the Vice Admiral K K Nayyar Memorial Lecture.

There has been a substantial contribution of the NMF even towards formalising the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act of 2022, which is seldom recognised, Admiral Kumar said.

The Indian Navy has got a shot in the arm because of this legislation, he said and underlined the deployment to counter piracy attempts.

"We need to cultivate a deeper understanding of the significance of the seas, not just as a source of trade, but as a strategic domain, impacting our security, economy and environment. This necessitates raising maritime awareness and then enhancing consciousness, encouraging maritime research, promoting maritime-related careers," Admiral Kumar said.

"We are endowed with a distinct maritime geography.... It is an opportune moment today to remember and reaffirm the role of maritime power in her rise and relevance. It was the seas, the medium of culture, connectivity and commerce, which enabled prosperity in pre-historic Bharat," he added.

In his address, Admiral Kumar extolled the maritime prowess in the era of the ancient kingdoms, such as the Mauryas and Guptas and right until the period of the Cholas and Marathas.

"The Chola kingdom and its maritime endeavours exemplified the maritime virtuous cycle that ... the symbiotic relationship between maritime trade and naval strength, a defining attribute of contemporary maritime powers. We saw that happening with the European powers, and then the US and then China. And now I feel, it is our turn," he said.

"So, as Bharat once again shifts its gaze to the seas ... for economic growth, I see the signs of an aspiring maritime power," he added.

Vice Admiral Nayyar's vision of reinvigorating India's maritime privacy resonates strongly today and it is "our collective responsibility" now to build upon his legacy, foster maritime thinking and ensure that "India continues to ride the waves" with unwavering zeal and elan, the Navy chief said.

"The Navy itself is undergoing transformation ... be it 'ghulami ki mansikta se mukti' or 'virasat pe garv'.... There is criticism from many quarters, but we are transforming rapidly. And, it is catching pace. We want to keep in step with what is happening in our country," he said.

"We are harnessing the youth dividend. We want to be a fully aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) Navy by 2047, a 'post-modern Navy' as Geoffrey Till says in his book Sea Power, that is what we want to achieve. I think, 2047 is far away, perhaps we will achieve that even before that," Admiral Kumar asserted.

As the country's first maritime think-tank, the NMF has grown rapidly in stature and strength, addressing a myriad of themes and issues that together constitute comprehensive maritime power, he added.

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