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Indian Ocean becoming new focus of activity after South China Sea, need to augment security: Defence Secretary

After the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean Region is becoming the new focus of activity and India needs to augment security so that the blue economy involving fishing, mineral and energy exploration can be supported, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar has said.

Giving the example of China, the top bureaucrat said that while the neighbouring nation has become a world leader when it comes to deep sea fishing, the Indian side remains confined to coastal areas and is not even fully exploiting the Exclusive Economic Zone and there is a lack of security apparatus to support it.

“We are still not even looking at going beyond our own territorial waters. Our fishermen are not trained, they don’t have the craft. And, we don’t have the security umbrella for our fishermen to be going deeper and for tapping resources even in our EEZ,” the Defence Secretary said at a webinar organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

Kumar said that after the South China Sea, the IOR has become “an important theatre for activity” and national security plans need to cater for this. “Maybe it will require naval resources or some air capabilities need to be created to deal with the Indian Ocean. The fact is that security of the IOR has to be addressed,” the bureaucrat said in response to a question posed by ET.

He added that for developing the blue economy, the 1382 island territories of India need to be integrated as well as they are strategically placed.

There has been increasing concern over the past few years on the upswing in Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean Region. Besides creation of infrastructure in nations like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, China has activated its first overseas base in Djibouti and has been conducting regular patrols in the region.

Chinese movement includes nuclear submarine patrols and frequent port visits to Pakistan as well. Officials believe it is only a matter of time before the first Chinese aircraft carrier group sets sail for the region as the PLA Navy has been rapidly expanding its reach.

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