Home Contact Us  
   

Military & Defence - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4746, 19 November 2014
 
Asia and the Seas: Looking Back to Look Forward
Vijay Sakhuja
Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi
 

Three Asian powers – China, India and Indonesia – have, in recent times, attempted to project their power potential by recalling their maritime histories. China has highlighted the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) that has foundations in the ancient world. Chinese President Xi Jinping promoted the MSR based on his reading of ancient Chinese maritime connections with Southeast Asia, India, Persia, the Arab world, and as far as Africa.

However, the MSR has invited sharp reactions from some Asian powers. They argue that China is reliving the era of Zheng He who led seven expeditions from 1405 to 1433. The Chinese fleet undertook expansive voyages and sailed through the Asian waters along the MSR, engaging in trade, projecting power, defeating challengers, and establishing spheres of influence. However, there are others such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bangladesh who appear to be convinced that the MSR offers them immense opportunities and that they can benefit from the Beijing's maritime prosperity.

India has chosen Project ‘Mausam’ to highlight its historical connection with the contemporary. ‘Mausam’ or ‘Mawsim’ in Arabic means ‘season’ during which, ships would undertake voyages and sail safely. The monsoon winds had facilitated the movement of peoples, cultures and trade across the Indian Ocean. Project ‘Mausam aims to “record, celebrate history, connect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world” for a better understanding of cultural values and concerns in the maritime milieu.

The newly-elected Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has called on the people of Indonesia to be “as great in the oceans as our ancestors were in the past.” For Indonesia, the motto of the Indonesian Navy, ‘Jales Veva Jaya Mahe’, meaning ‘in the water, we are triumphant’, appears to be the driver.

Indeed, China, India and Indonesia were preeminent maritime powers during ancient times and had relied on the seas for a full realisation of their power potential. China’s Song and Ming Dynasties, India’s Chola Dynasty, and the Sumatran Srivijaya Empire had strong maritime aspirations and invested enormous capital in the development of a sophisticated maritime system. They were globalised powers and possessed formidable maritime capability that reflected in their shipping, ports and trade that crisscrossed the Asian waters, carrying goods, culture and people.

These states established political, economic, social, cultural and strategic networks as far as Africa, Eurasia, the Mediterranean and Persia - that which came to be referred to as the proverbial maritime silk route. They also developed naval power that was effectively used during periods of crisis. It is also true that Asian powers declined due to several internecine disputes and wars that resulted in their colonisation, which came from the seas.

In the 21st century, Asian powers are experiencing high economic growth, burgeoning maritime trade, a promising maritime science and technology base, and above all, a desire to build a robust maritime military capability.  There is strong evidence of sensitivities about safety and security of sea-lanes, and forward presence of extra-regional navies, which is an issue of significant concern. In the case of China and India, naval fleets built around nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, expeditionary platforms are gaining primacy, and for Indonesia, the focus is on building robust naval capability to address a string of maritime threats and challenges.

There are at least six reasons for Asian countries to evoke their glorious maritime past and celebrate it in the 21st century:

First, the Asian states are witnessing a flourishing maritime enterprise, which displays strong elements of interdependence. This is a mirror image of the sophisticated maritime trading system that emerged in ancient Asia that contributed not only to their growth, but had linkages with other trading systems of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and the modern day Pacific.

Second, the Asian countries wish to demonstrate that during ancient times, they were highly interconnected and globalised and the seas had shaped their destiny in significant ways, and that they continue to do so.  

The third possible reason is that the 21st century is indeed the period for the rediscovery of their maritime power with phenomenal economic growth built around trade, a bulk of which is carried out via the seas.

Fourth, the Asian powers have successfully shed the 400 years of colonial legacy that came from the seas, and are developing impressive naval capabilities to preclude dominance of their seas, protect trade over the sea-lanes, and to ensure safety of marine resources in the Exclusive Economic Zones.

Fifth, they are confident of contributing to Asian efforts to ensure order at sea. Finally, the sixth reason is that Asian countries wish to rely on the seas for a full realisation of their power potential and place in the international system.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Vijay Sakhuja,
"Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?," 1 September 2014
Vijay Sakhuja,
"Indian Ocean Navies: Lessons from the Pacific," 2 June 2014
Vijay Sakhuja,
"Increasing Maritime Competition: IORA, IONS, Milan and the Indian Ocean Networks," 3 March 2014

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Microbeads and Microfibre: A Big Challenge for Blue Economy

Short Sea Shipping in Bay of Bengal Takes Baby Steps

Plastic Litter: The Challenge at Sea

Marine Mammal Stranding: Myth, Mystery and Facts

Dhow Trade in the North Arabian Sea

Maritime Issues: Proactive Initiatives

Towards a North Arabian Maritime Partnership

Forecast 2016: Indian Ocean Politics and Security

Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage

Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness

IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Indian Ocean: Why India Seeks Demilitarisation

India and Maritime Security: Do More

Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations

Pirates Prefer Energy Cargo

Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Xi Jinping and the Maritime Silk Road: The Indian Dilemma

Drug Smuggling across the Indian Ocean: Impact of Increasing Interceptions

Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?

Indian Ocean: Multilateralism Takes Root

BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

India-EU: Exploring Maritime Convergences

Rim of the Pacific Exercises (RIMPAC): Thaw in China-US Tensions?

Indian Ocean Navies: Lessons from the Pacific

The Oman Gas Pipeline: India’s Underwater Energy Supply Chain

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.