With India holding the presidency of the powerful United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the month of August 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the first signature event under India’s leadership of the council on the issue of Maritime Security.
PM Modi presiding (in virtual mode) over a High-Level open debate at the UNSC marks an innovative use of diplomacy where a senior diplomat or a minister has traditionally performed this role. However, to keen observers of India’s foreign policy and experts, Indian foreign policy under Narendra Modi has laid special emphasis on maritime security. India has also driven international consensus on the need to maintain free and open sea-lanes based on the principles enshrined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on Laws Of the Seas treaty.
When asked on the importance and significance of the Prime Minister himself chairing a UNSC debate, unnamed sources in the Ministry of External Affairs explained, ”See, we have to understand that India has a long history of being a seafaring nation. In all directions from the Indian Ocean right up to the Pacific Ocean our maritime interests are strategic and significant, exports from India and imports into India also primarily rely on marine routes. Therefore it should not come as surprise that India attaches the highest importance to issues of maritime security.”
The subject to be deliberated upon by the UNSC members on the 9th of August is “Enhancing maritime security: A case for international cooperation” under the larger umbrella of the “Maintenance of international peace and security”. This is seen as an extension of PM Modi’s advocacy of SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) a foreign policy initiative unveiled in 2015 in relation to the Indian Ocean region (IOR). “Our vision for the IOR is rooted in advancing cooperation in our region; and, to use our capabilities for the benefit of all in our common maritime home,” the PM had said then.
Apart from the Sagar policy, India has also partnered with QUAD, ASEAN and other partners to work together to build a ‘free, open, secure and prosperous’ Indo-Pacific region. As member and president of the influential UNSC, India now has the opportunity to bring attention towards and build consensus for one of the core aspects of all international relations.
Along with PM who will be chairing the meeting, a good number of senior diplomats and leaders are expected to participate in the UNSC debate. The importance of maritime security such as what can be done to address the causes of maritime crime and insecurity, how could member states enhance their capabilities and improve operational coordination to assess maritime security related threats, and how to advance the implementation through international cooperation will some of larger themes of the debate. As India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador T.S Thirumurthi said, “Our objective through this high-level debate is to make a case for equal access for all nations to the use of the global commons so that sea lanes are rendered as pathways to mutual prosperity and corridors of peace.”
Lastly, Prime Minister Modi chairing the UNSC meeting also sends strong signal to the international community and underlines the fact that India takes its international responsibilities seriously as a global economic and military power. In fact, this historic event is also supports India’s long standing demand for the reform of international organizations such as the UNSC to reflect the current geopolitical realities of the world.