Blue Ocean Diplomacy: Gains and Drawbacks for India

Blue Ocean Diplomacy: Gains and Drawbacks for India

Blue Ocean Diplomacy: Gains and Drawbacks for India

The first ever summit of the Indian Ocean Rim Association was held in March 2017. Blue economy is a subject that has generated a lot of buzz. It is being touted as the latest solution to increased naval tension in SCS islands and proposing marine economic activities to be the glue that binds India to the rest of the world. Certain diplomats and scholars have even pointed out the value of Blue Ocean diplomacy for helping India gain significant brownie points and establish itself in the world order. Giving substance to the Blue Economy has value beyond diplomacy. It can meet the needs for food, medicine, energy, income generation, employment growth and socioeconomic development. Not just traditional sectors like fisheries, aquaculture, marine tourism and shipping, but also sectors like deep sea mining, ocean energy and marine biotechnology require policy attention. Can blue ocean diplomacy revive flagging bilateral relations between India and neighbours like China? Read on to know more.


1. In-depth and sustained dialogue

The in-depth, sustained dialogue among numerous players for multi-sectoral and pan Indian understanding to emerge as a blue print for the Blue Economy. This will promote bilateral relations and help India explore post OBOR equations in Asia and the world.

2. Tangible International Cooperation

Tangible international cooperation is critical for progress that is meaningful. Geopolitical issues like South China, East China sea is not just about territorial and maritime claims. Beyond the strife are the economic factors. Oceanic regions are rich in mineral, petrol and other resources. This is what makes the Blue Ocean diplomacy a positive step forward, by understanding and placing diplomatic tussles in their correct context for effective resolution.

3. Careful Recalibration Required

Currently, strategic defence and security issues and non-traditional security threats, such as piracy, terrorism and natural disasters, dominate the discourse in the strategic community. Given the unfolding geopolitical situation, this is unavoidable, but a careful recalibration is still required. A conscious shift from security-related issues alone to also examining the development aspects of the oceans needs to be executed. By deploying technology, increasing investment and benefiting from global best practices, nations can generate greater wealth from the oceans (than ever before), while respecting the limits of sustainability.

4. True Partnership of Nations

The Blue Ocean diplomacy presents an alternative to OBOR. It evokes true partnership of nations, not a presumptive superpower dictating terms of engagement. This is an articulation of how the partnership should work in practice. Making China irrelevant and OBOR insignificant will only take place with Blue Ocean Diplomacy.


1. Defence Concerns Critical

The first and most important consideration is the defence concerns. Economic diplomacy cannot hope to resolve deep seated issues that are threatening India's sovereignty. China's territorial claims cannot be resolved through extended cooperation. OBOR was proof of that. Non-participation is the only way out.

2. Deeper Issues Involved

There are more issues involved in resolving a diplomatic crisis than just a partnership. While Blue Ocean diplomacy can resolve issues on a forum level, at the strategic level, these factors remain unresolved. Diplomacy should consider all the issues involved, not just economic factors.

3. Viewing the Relationship From All Angles

Limiting diplomacy and viewing it through the prism of sustained cooperation cannot yield results. This is because India's relationship with each of its neighbours is distinctive and unique. Therefore, non-coastal and landlocked regions also need a separate policy, which does not solely rely on marine cooperation.

To sum it up, India will continue to remain at sea in the post OBOR world unless it picks up where China is failing to take off. A proper partnership is inclusive, not exclusive. To this end, blue ocean diplomacy can serve well to counter certain strategic concerns in diplomatic circles. But a wider medium of cooperation taking defence and strategic issues into account is a must too.
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