Spurt in Non-Traditional Maritime Security Threats In Indian Ocean

By Bharat Shakti

The Indian Ocean region (IOR) has witnessed a significant spurt in maritime security challenges at sea over the past one year. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on illegal narcotics smuggling over the established maritime routes in the Indian Ocean have increased manifold. In early 2021, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard seized significant hauls of contraband drugs in the region.

The Indian Navy has busted an international smuggling racket operating through the Arabian Sea, seizing narcotics worth Rs 3,000 crore from a Sri Lankan fishing vessel that originated from Pakistan, on 19 April. It was the third major seizure by the Navy and Coast Guard off the Kerala coast during the past couple of months. While a fishing boat was intercepted off Vizhinjam coast on 7 March and 300kg heroin seized, three Sri Lankan fishing boats were seized on 18 March off the Lakshadweep coast.

The latest haul is big not only in terms of quantity and cost but also in terms of disrupting the narcotics smuggling routes emanating from the Makran coast in Pakistan, the Indian Navy said through an official release. “Narcotics flow from Makran to the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. The spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities,” the release added.

Non‐Traditional Maritime Security Threats

Indian Ocean Region is geo‐strategically placed at the hub of global power politics owing to its vital Sea Lines of Communications. For both littoral and foreign nations, who seek to use this region to maintain their strategic game, the Indian Ocean acts as strategic backwaters. However, in the machinations of geopolitical rivalries, certain crucial maritime security concerns, beyond the traditional military threats, known as non‐traditional maritime security threats always loom large in the region.

With the emergence of the world’s major energy and trade routes through this region, the IOR littorals are concerned about the vulnerabilities due to various non-traditional maritime security threats such as piracy, maritime terrorism, climate change, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, illegal immigration, and smuggling of arms and drugs.

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