India as a Maritime Nation : Its Role and Responsibilities


“It is the right time to come and better through the Sea Routes.”

PM Narendra Modi

       Indian Maritime History—Indian maritime history begins during the 3rd millennium BCE when inhabitants of the Indus Valley initiated maritime trading contact with Mesopotamia. The Roman historian Strabo mentions an increase in Roman Trade with India following the Roman annexation of Egypt. By the time of Augustus up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India. As trade between India and the Greco-Roman world increased spices became the main import from India to the Western World, by passing silk and other commodities. Indians were present in Alexandria while Christian and Jew settlers from Rome continued to live in India long after the fall of the Roman empire, which resulted in Rome’s loss of the Red Sea ports, previously used to secure trade with India by the Greco-Roman world since the Ptolemaic dynasty. The Indian commercial connection with South East Asia proved vital to the merchants of Arabia and Persia during the 7th–8th century. Indians were the first settlers in Australia.

The National Maritime Day— 5th of April is the National Maritime Day of India. On this day in 1919 navigation history was created when SS Loyalty, the first ship of The Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd., journeyed to the United Kingdom, a crucial step for India shipping history when sea routes were controlled by the British.

Maritime India Submit-2016—Maritime India Summit 2016 (MIS 2016) is a maiden flagship initiative of Ministry of Shipping, Government of India that will provide a unique global platform for investors to explore potential business opportunities in the Indian Maritime Sector. Maritime India Submit 2016 was organized from April 14-16, 2016 at Bombay Convention and Exhibition Centre, Goregaon, Mumbai, India. The summit had a 2 days conference on April 14-15 and exhibition for 3 days from April 14-16, 2016.

The conference aims to foster interaction between stakeholders through B2B and G2B meetings, and will have special sessions on investment opportunities in Maritime Sector with focus on ship building, ship repair, ship recycling dredger/ barge manufacturing setting up of new ports and capacity augmentation of existing ports, development of inland waterways for cargo and passenger transportation, coastal shipping, passenger ferry services, light house and cruise tourism, island development and aquatic resources, Maritime cluster development and other services related to Indian Maritime Sector. The conference also highlighted investment opportunities in the Indian Maritime States and Union Territories. Republic of Korea was the partner country for Maritime India Summit 2016.

Reasons the World Needs to Pay Heed to India’s New Maritime Security Strategy

      Growing Civil-Military Convergence—This strategy is marked by a critical development, the growing civil-military consensus on the importance of the sea for India’s prosperity and security. 15 years ago, there were few among the top political leadership in the then BJP led NDA government who fully understood the growing political security and geoeconomic importance of the Indian Ocean for India. Indeed, National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) in New Delhi at that time there were senior ministers who refused to accept a blurring of lines between civilian and military issues at sea. This was most forcibly apparent when ten-Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba terrorists used the sea route to travel from Karachi to carry out the Mumbai terror attacks of November 26-28, 2008. In its aftermath the Congress-led UPA government carried out an overhaul maritime security of the country, including coastal and offshore security. This was an unprecedented responsibility for an armed service whose role in relation to government had largely been limited to assistance to civilian authority.

Economic factors also lie behind the civil-military convergence over maritime security. With higher economic growth fuelled by greater energy consumption, India is dependent on the Indian Ocean for both trade and energy. Over 90% of India’s foreign trade by volume and 70% in value terms is seaborne, accounting for 42% of India’s GDP. Its oil imports have increased to nearly 80% of total demand. Most major international shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean are located close to India’s island territories.

Modi’s Indian Ocean Policy—Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set the Indian Ocean as a foreign-policy priority, with maritime dominance apparently the goal as India seeks to counter China’s expansionist policies and confront maritime terrorism.

Modi’s first visit outside Delhi after his swearing-in ceremony was to go aboar the Indian aircraft carrieding Vikramaditya off Goa in June 2014 and induct his powerful warship into the navy. In March 2015, Modi unveiled a four-part framework for the Indian Ocean, focusing on : defending India’s interests and maritime territory (in particular countering terrorism); deepening economic and security cooperation with maritime neighbours and island states; promoting collective action for peace and security; and seeking a more integrated and cooperative future for sustainable development. For the first time Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar formally released the navy’s official strategy at the Naval Commanders Conference in New Delhi on October 26, 2015.

Why Maritime India ?

  • India has a coastline of more than 7,500 km with over 190 ports situated along its length.
  • About 50% of world’s container traffic and close to 30% of world’s cargo traffic passes through this region.
  • India’s 1200 island territories and its huge Exclusive Economic Zone of 2·4 million square kilometers makes clear the economic significance of the Indian Ocean.
  • Merchandise trade contributes to over 50% in the country’s real GDP and 95% of this merchandised trade by volume is moved through maritime transport.
  • ‘Make in India’ which has reignited its manufacturing sector has defence manufacturing and ship building among its focus areas.
  • India’s major ports handle 58% of the total traffic in MGT.
  • The cargo handled by India’s 12 major and 187 notified non-major ports increased by 8% in 2014-15.

Why Must it be Attended ?

  • Build invaluable industry connections with High-profile participants and discuss key issues to gauge the business prospects and benchmark your approach with other stakeholders.
  • Interact with Business delegations from among exporters, importers, shipping lines, ports, cruise lines.
  • High level presentations, case studies, sector updates and panel discussions.
  • Meet prospective buyers from across the maritime sector.
  • Discuss diverse topics relating to policy and regulatory challenges, etc.

Why Maritime World ?

  • 90% of the world trade is carried by Sea.
  • 9·84 billion tons of shipment are carried by the sea every year.
  • 60% is the share that the developing countries contribute to the international seaborne trade.
  • The world seaborne trade in cargo ton-miles nearly double to 55,000 in 2015.
  • About 30% of international seaborne trade comprises various forms of fuels.
  • 1·7 billion tons of crude oil was carried by sea in 2014.
  • The world fleet grew by 3·5% in 2014 to a total of 89,464 vessels.


       I feel that a strong and balanced navy is vital for India’s march towards major power status. Such a force will soon be a reality, largely through the navy’s foresight and indigenous efforts. However, it is necessary for the decision-makers to understand that the navy, by itself, constitutes just one pillar of the country’s maritime capability and without the rest of the structure, including strategic guidance, to complement and provide support, the edifice of naval power will remain hollow and vulnerable.

Asian countries which have brought holistic focus on their maritime sector have not only reaped tremendous economic benefits but also reinforced their maritime security. While the neighbourhood has moved on India’s ports and infrastructure remain inefficient, our ship building industry is sluggish, merchant shipping grows at snails pace, seabed exploit is stagnating and human resource development is inadequate. Our trade-dependent economic progress is under girded by these essential components of maritime power, but a lack of strategic vision has resulted in failure to exploit the maritime sector; with adverse implications for maritime security.

A nation with India’s maritime assets, challenges and opportunities urgently needs a multi-disciplinary maritime advisory body to conceptualize a vision, draw up plans and monitor activities in the maritime domain. The first task of such a body should be to craft an overarching Maritime Security Policy and thereafter to undertake its integration with India’s Maritime Strategy. Only such a synergy can ensure that we draw maximum advantage from the maritime sector to benefit our economy and also to reinforce maritime security.

That concludes my presentation and I thank you for your attention : Jai Hind.

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