Geopolitics of the Sea: the Idea of Ocean Control in the Political Discourse of Independent India

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Abstract


The article is devoted to the history of the idea of control over the Indian Ocean in the context of the development of India’s political discourse. This issue relates to the history of the development of the maritime security component of India in colonial and postcolonial times. The author seeks to analyze the genesis of the idea of India’s control over the sea, the main stages of its formation and its specific features. The relevance of the issue is emphasized by the attention paid in present-day India to the problem of effective control over the Indian Ocean, its perception as zone of Indian dominance in the context of the formation of the Indo-Pacific region. The article proves that the concept of ocean control, which is now popular among Indian politicians and experts, was formed as a result of the consistent evolution of discourse, to which theorists, military and politicians contributed. As a result of this evolution, India developed its own concept of control over sea spaces, implying the role of India as the main supplier of security in the region and the leader of the regional community of countries, which includes the states controlling the key points of the Indian Ocean. This evolution can be divided into three stages. During the first one (1947-1965) the doctrine of ‘possession of the sea’ was formulated, and this was done by K.M. Panikkar and K.B. Vaidya. Those plans, however, were not realized due to lack of resources. During the second stage (1965-1991) the idea was removed from the Indian external and internal political discourse. At the same time Navy’s size and equipment were constantly growing, allowing India to defeat Pakistan at sea in 1971 and successfully solve tactical tasks, supporting profitable status quo in the Indian Ocean region. Finally, during the third stage (1991-2019) the idea of control over the ocean was revived. As a result of this evolution, India developed its own concept of control over ocean spaces, implying the role of the country as the main supplier of security in the region and the leader of the regional community of countries, which includes the states controlling the key points of the Indian Ocean.


About the authors

Alexey Vladimirovich Kupriyanov

National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: a.kupriyanov@imemo.ru
Moscow, Russian Federation

PhD in History, Research Fellow of the Sector of International Organizations and Global Political Regulation, Staff Member of the Department of International Political Problems

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