India’s Maritime Overture Towards UNSC: A Historical Narrative

By Krishna Kataria, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society (MHS)

India will always be a voice of moderation, an advocate of dialogue and a proponent of international law”

Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, UNSC Presidency, 2021

 

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on August 09, 2021, via video conferencing at United Nations Security Council chaired the High-level Open Debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security – A Case for International Cooperation’ that focused on ways to effectively counter maritime crime and insecurity and strengthen coordination in the maritime domain. The discussion witnessed the participation of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace, and many more notable ministers.

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Seabird set to Soar

On 24 June 2021, Shri Rajnath Singh visited the Karwar Naval Base to review the progress of Project Seabird where he expressed his hopes for it to culminate into “Asia’s largest Naval base.” Karwar is known for scenic beaches surrounded by the lush Western Ghats, islands, and monuments. The beauty and serenity of this very place is said to have inspired Shri Rabindranath Tagore to write his drama ‘Prakritir Pratisodh’ during his visit to the city in 1882.  So, what is the story of Karwar that is set to become the Indian Navy’s stronghold of power in the coming decades?

Karwar, a coastal city, lies in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka located on the banks of the Kali River. Ancient records trace Karwar to the Kadamba Dynasty (345-525 CE) that ruled Uttara Kannada. The present Naval Base at Karwar is named INS Kadamba, commemorating this very dynasty. In successive centuries, the region passed through the hands of great empires like the Chalukyas and Vijayanagar Empire. ‘An Account of Trade in India’ by Charles Lockter (1711), refers to “Carwar” as an East India Company factory and mentions that “The best Pepper in the World grows here-abouts”. Portuguese traders referred to Karwar as Cintacora, Chitrakul, or Sindpur. The English Courteen Association built a factory at Kadwad village in 1638 and traded with Arabian and African merchants in commodities like muslin, pepper, cardamom and coarse blue cotton cloth. When the Courteen Association merged with the East India Company, Karwar was made into a Company Town.
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Rewiring India’s Maritime Leadership

By Krishna Kataria, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society (MHS)

“Nature has ensured that India’s geographic configuration makes her as reliant on the seas as any island nation. Geopolitical imperatives have in the recent past served to confirm the importance of the maritime domain in our national security matrix.”\

– Adm Arun Prakash (Retd) [Indian Naval Despatch, Winter 2020]

Throughout history, the maritime domain has been a crucial space in establishing new and emerging powers shaping regional dynamics. India’s maritime  strategy represents the new strategic reality of the twenty-first century. The opening up of economies, growing seaborne trade, and the seamless connectivity in the maritime sector conveys India’s emerging role in maritime domain. As emphasized by K.M Panikkar, “It is the geographical position of India that changes the character of the Indian Ocean.” By the 21st century, Indian Navy’s global maritime outlook has become palpable in terms of trade, connectivity and security dynamics. Against this backdrop, the maritime strategy of India reflects the country’s maritime aspirations.

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