We need to focus on the High Sea for economic and strategic gains: Dr Ajay Kumar

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Pune, 18 April 2024: India needs to pay attention to the Underwater Domain Awareness, if we want to take economic and strategic advantages of the High Seas, feels Dr. Ajay Kumar, former Defence Secretary, Government of India.

Dr Kumar was speaking at the five-day workshop on Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) framework for Strategic Security Architecture and AtmaNirbharta, organised by the Maritime Research Centre in collaboration with Nirdhwani Technology Pvt. Ltd. (NDT) and the Indo-Swiss Centre of Excellence (ISCE) at Navalmal Firodia Seminar Hall, MCCIA, Pune.

Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (Retd), Chairman of Maritime Research Centre (MRC) Strategic Advisory Group, Praful Talera – MRC Adviser on Blue Economy and Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das – Founder & Director MRC were also present on the occasion.

Talking about UDA in a strategic security framework, Dr Kumar said that any nation, which is exploiting the resources under the sea, is poised to get consistent economic returns in the future.

“We understand strategic security as only defense security as we conventional understand it. Today security has become multidimensional. We need to exploit the economic opportunity of this sector, as if we don’t do it, our competitors would do it. This is going to be the next sunrise sector in the future. The scale is so huge, if we lose out on it, we would be behind other competing nations,” Dr Kumar said on the third day of the workshop.

Explaining the possibilities that life under the water offers, Dr Kumar said that only 4% of the work is contributing to our GDP.

“94% of life exists under water and oceans are critical to the management of greenhouse gases, which is very important today. Greenhouse gases will determine if life is going to continue on the planet or not. To manage it, we need to know how to manage our oceans. In India, our maritime area encompasses around the same geographical expands as our territories. It holds nearly 80% of our total resources, with the same land-mass, but contributes only 4% to our GDP. This is the contrast of under-exploitation that we need to move ahead with. It is this opportunity underwater which has the potential to generate millions of jobs, and trillions in revenue, in diverse sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture tourism, shipping, energy, by leveraging our maritime resources.”

He asserted that any nation that moves first, will have the advantage over the others.

“When we look at the underwater domain, it is not merely our own maritime area. We are also looking at the High Sea which has huge strategic and economic implications. Any nation can fish or mine in the High Sea and benefit from the highly-priced resources that exist there. It is understood that we can benefit from the large amount of genetic material that we find to discover new medicines and treatment for some incurable diseases. Highsea also offers millions of tons of polymetallic modules, sulfides, copper, gold, rare earth, and others. Technology advancement is reaching the tipping point in a lot of these areas. It is now becoming possible to exploit these huge resources in an environmentally sustainable manner,” he said.

“The point is that the nation which is the quickest to seize the opportunity in the High Sea will likely assert control over the area’s resources and territory in the long run,” he added.

The third day of the workshop was moderated by Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das, Founder & Director MRC, Pune.