Keynote Address – SAGAR Discourse 1.0 (2017) Ocean Partnership

The Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) is an emerging non­ governmental think tank of India engaged in studying and analyzing integrated national security matters. The Forum is proud to organize its first international conference on the subject this year in the form of a discourse conference. The theme is ocean integrated national security. Ocean is one of the terrains of national governance where the game of national security is played according to the challenges faced by the governments the world over today. Under the concept of national security, the identified terrains are the land-the terra firma of the human system-ocean, airspace, outer space, cyberspace and genome or the genomic space in the order of emergence. Closer to the term “terrain” and for an explanation, I may like to quote the Japanese term gemba made popular by Taiichi Ohno, the master architect of the Toyota production system, meaning the “actual place”.
Gemba implies allocation where the action takes place or value is created. In national security governance, the terrain is more or less similar to Gemba in micro or macro level appreciation, though much enhanced in conception and will depend upon the quantum of exertion of responsible governments in national security maximisation. The imperatives and challenges of national governance are vastly spread out in one or more of the six terrains of national security. For this purpose, national security is not merely physical or military security of a nation. It is much beyond that. The concept of national security ultimately percolates to the wellbeing of the people that can be measured and indexed at any given time. The sole purpose of national governance in any system of government is maximising national security through its dedicated and mutually inclusive elements over the six terrains mentioned. These elements, as well as the terrains, can increase or undergo transmutation in the future. But they are not likely to diminish in their importance in national governance. When Sun Tzu in his Art of War or Kautilya, also called Chanakya, in his Arthasasthra propounded strategic thinking, their considerations fell over the then prevailed unitary terrain of the land from where the term itself evolved. The situation is different today and apparently will be different and more complex tomorrow.  But the concept of national security underpinning the overall wellbeing of the citizens will remain unchanged under the law of invariance. The governments, therefore, have to be exceedingly upfront in their vision statements to meet the demands of the future.
This discourse is the first in the series of annual meetings planned by the Forum for providing an opportunity of discourse among like-minded partners across the world. Sagar means ocean in Sanskrit, a classical language and also a source language of India. This discourse is also titled SAGAR to not only the ocean but also to highlight the concept enunciated by the prime minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi, as Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) in a sincere effort to grow collectively with all in the region where the term region is extendable to the entire world. FINS sincerely hopes to convey this message to the world through all of you, excellent people, gathered here. India, like other responsible countries, believes in the growth of all around the world. This will require not only the cooperation of the people of a country in governance, but also the governments of other nations and their people. Such an ambition may sound idealistic but for the world that is evolving responsive to the citizens’ needs under visionary leaders in governance. Human wellbeing is an achievable target of governance however strenuous or conflict-laden the path towards it maybe. We in India believe in the richness of the ocean highlighted in our ancient scriptures. The world which is aware of the benefits of human can accrue by governing it’s punctiliously. This is evident from the fact that every geopolitical entity in the world, including the landlocked or geographically disadvantaged, is a maritime entity and has rights over the ocean under international law. Every one of them is impacted by the changes in the ocean anywhere in the world. This calls for cooperation of the international community at all levels on ocean governance or, what I would like to emphasise, the ocean property maximisation based on my studies in the macro level strategy of ocean governance. Ocean property ideates in the overall ocean benefits that a government or a people can accrue by maximising their returns from its four components: ocean advantage, ocean resources, marine environment and oceanic islands. The return of ocean property regime needs to be integrated with the overall national security governance to maximise the wellbeing of the community.
There are many issues. This address refers to some of them at random. Mapping the rim countries, in the geostrategic context, may need a different approach to include the landlocked nations across the ocean rim in the respective regions. For example, Lesotho encircled by South Africa can be an Indian Ocean rim country, though landlocked. This approach has to be based on a nation’s geostrategic policy. According to this matrix, many nations, landlocked or otherwise may fall within multiple ocean rims. Such oceanic rim mapping will help in strategic networking linking multi-rim domains.
Another point for consideration is the UNCLOS itself which is the first step in taming the ocean anarchy in the responsible world. But its needs are required to be viewed to meet the demands of situational changes. A fresh look is needed for establishing the rule of international law related to suppression of unlawful acts such as piracy, trafficking, human rights of captive merchant marine personnel, sea level rise and demographic displacements, etc. I may even go to the extent of recommending a review of the maritime zones to cover the entire ocean with fixed and variable zones still maintaining the status of global commons.
The issue of sea level rise is serious. The ever migrant human systems in search of another country may add on a different genre as a displaced human who will not fall in the region of refugees according to at least one court verdict so far. Refugee influx has been a severe issue for nations the world over, India included. The flow is ever continuing. The problems of displaced persons of low lying areas, sometimes an entire country, lost under the rising floods can be more complex. The situation is relatively imminent. The world bodies need to think about it to avoid a human catastrophe never experienced so far in such a magnitude. The world or the countries should not suffer. It is important to know that the umbrella regime of UNCLOS had consumed 25 long years before concluding consensually. A review could be equally long. The clock has been ticking.
Governing the ocean resources is another challenge. In the times of hunter-gatherers, there was enough harmony and cooperation among them as they needed to find food over land, the only reachable commons. Today’s hunter-gatherers are the fishers all over the world barring a few exceptions over the land. The hunter-gatherers reap what they don’t sow as a right. It is the law of nature that needs to be respected. Besides, they are supposed to be more cohesive than a gated community first originated in the world at the advent of the farm culture. The world needs to show particular attention to the welfare and prosperity of the fishers. Besides fisheries resources, the ocean is a gilded mine of various other resources. This too needs to be highlighted for sustainable resource generation and exploitation. Corporate social responsibility (CSR), the phenomenon of donor behaviour of human compassion, is slowly finding a place in the ocean too. Whether termed corporate social responsibility or exclusively as corporate ocean responsibility (COR), the humans should understand they are already late for appreciating the health of the ocean. It is declining faster than the beneficiaries think. The beneficiaries are the ocean stakeholders, which every human is. We are all perched precariously over the rocks that look floating around the vast area of water. More and more people will cling on to these rocks as the demographic density increases. We and our generations to come will have to survive in this position.  For this, the ocean has to be healthy, regenerative and sustainable. This is a major concern.
The term ocean advantage is one of the components of ocean property also refers to using the ocean for military purposes. Here I must add that this discourse does not trespass over the realms of military affairs. Ocean advantage also involves maritime shipping, navigation and maximum trade. The entire world depends on ocean trade that needs to be facilitated by giant ships and ultra-modern port infrastructure including multiport complexes. One of the points I would like to highlight in this address is actually a cal1 to landlocked nations to participate in shipping and shipping infrastructure.  This could be done either by entering the commercial shipping trade with the help of friendly partners and also encouraging citizens to take up shipping employment through indigenous maritime education and training. This is an area which the landlocked nations can engage in especially since most of them are members of International Maritime Organization (IMO) and performs maritime law and treaty obligations.
As mentioned earlier, this is a beginning. The SAGAR discourses are expected to continue annually. The intention is to consolidate the ideas of national security for integration in a terrain specific manner. The concept for the next year is expected to be based on outer space in national governance. India has already embraced ambitious space projects in support of its immediate and willing regional partners. More is expected to follow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *