INDIAN MARITIME PARADIPLOMACY: CONNECTING SUB-NATIONAL NAUTICAL DOTS
19 March 2019
“Paradiplomacy”, as conceived by John Kincaid in 1990, was indeed a rekindling breakthrough and introduced a new domain of thought among foreign policy theorists. With its focus on the role of sub-state entities, particularly in democratic federal countries, vis-à-vis foreign policy-making, the idea of Paradiplomacy unpacked the hitherto-ignored decentralised vectors of foreign diplomacy. The concept also earned synonyms such as “constituent diplomacy” and “sub-state diplomacy” given the significant role of sub- national actors in international relations. Apparently, the growing literature on Para diplomatic processes in India, since the beginning of this decade, reveals the growing recognition of this idea and the endorsement of the same to a new high. Though the concept has been a point of academic cynosure for quite some time, the studies have more or less found only a general theme in terms of a focus restricted to the “economic” vector. However, it is high time that more scholarly and administrative capital is applied to explore the shrouded subsets of Para diplomatic activities in India, essentially the maritime vector.
Paradiplomacy in India: Past and Present
Constitutionally, foreign affairs, which runs from items 9 to 20 of the Union List in the 7th Schedule, falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the central government. Irrespective of it, Paradiplomacy came into Indian political currency out of policy compulsions. Its institutional basis which is demonstrably in rudimentary forms has hardly disseminated to all states in the country due to an array of geopolitical and historical factors. Some states such as Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu (TN), West Bengal (WB), Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh (AP), Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have been
identified to be a standing testimony to this policy practice, wherein the Chief Ministers (CMs) took up the role of a “chief diplomat” in advancing the aspirations of the respective states globally.1
At times, the Centre itself has resorted to official rhetorics in support of diplomacy at sub-national strata short of providing an independent role to the states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who himself did set the wheels of Paradiplomacy during his stint as the CM of the state of Gujarat, endorsed a strong boost to advance the realm of economic diplomacy at the state level. There exists a scholarly disposition that the so-called “Modi Doctrine” gave an impetus for Paradiplomacy in the recent past in terms of encouraging the states and cities to seal special relations with countries or overseas provinces or cities of their choice. In 2014, a “States Division” headed by a Joint Secretary-level official was also created in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to act as a single avenue for outreach to states and the UTs for coordinated efforts to promote their exports and tourism and attract overseas investments and expertise.2 This is much indicative of the structural adaptions barging into the South Block to welcome the future of “decentralized diplomacy” to some extent, if not entirely.
Floating a Case: Changing Nautical Semantics
“Maritime Paradiplomacy”, as a sub-national construct of forging external relations on nautical lines, deviates from the prevailing monochromatic optics of deeming the maritime-foreign enterprise as an exclusive domain of the federal government. The Indian module, with its economic and non-economic underpinnings, offers a template based on a coastline configuration dealing with the involvement of federal units, i.e. the states, in the development of the maritime sector through foreign engagements. With a 7516.6 km coastline, India’s maritime-federal units comprise the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, TN, AP, Odisha and West Bengal (WB), and the Union Territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Puducherry. Apparently, the seven states which have had a minimal track-record of Paradiplomacy hail from the coastal belt, making sufficient room for fastening a maritime touch to it.
Anchoring Paradiplomacy with a nautical logic is more of a deliberate political choice. Gujarat, with a total coastline of 1600 km, the longest among the maritime states, has put forth an unprecedented maritime development trajectory by virtue of its strategic location as being the nearest maritime outlet to Africa, Middle East, and Europe. The
state’s credentials as a vanguard of maritime affairs are unparalleling and the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), established in 1982, controls and manages the 48 non-major ports, the largest among all states.3
The Vibrant Gujarat Submit, since its inception in 2003, has remained a key paradiplomatic asset for the state across varying indicators such as trade and investment and has been an instrument in projecting the state’s maritime profile. An avant-garde Gujarat’s ambitious strategy to capitalise on maritime paradiplomacy was ostensible in the recently concluded ninth edition of the summit in January 2019, wherein the port and port-led development sector attracted investments up to the tune of Rs. 36,128 crores.4 Reports say, the GMB managed to get 126 partnerships in the ports and ports-based sector, which consists of 96 investment intentions and 30 strategic partnerships. A further breakup of the partnerships reveals that out of the 126 partnerships, 26 intents (21%) are geared towards new port capacity creation, 13 intents (10%) seeks to develop shipbuilding and ship repair facilities, and 14 intents (11%) are for the development of Ro-Ro & Cruise Terminals, operation of ferry services and promotion of marine tourism.5
Undoubtedly, the summit facilitates a platform to project the maritime image of the state on a multi-layered premise. A Rs. 800 crore worth tripartite agreement between the port of Amsterdam, GMB and JM Baxi & Co. was inked for developing a cruise terminal in Porbandar.6 The GMB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chicago- based EagleRail Container Logistics for introducing a new “short-haul” evacuation technology for direct movement of cargo from ships to the docking areas.7 After its expected launch in the Porbandar and Magdalla ports, Gujarat could be counted as the first state to have this option.8 Moreover, the GMB signed another MoU with the UK- based Foresight Group International (FGIL) to develop India’s first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) terminal on the state’s coast.9
The Gujarat narrative represents the leveraging of maritime industries across various dimensions by inviting overseas investments. Sagarmala, the flagship programme of the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India (GoI), found well acceptance at Gandhinagar and has become an important growth driver in the state by means of the “Make in India” tag. Keeping maritime infrastructure development as its core objective, the state’s plan on setting up the State Sagarmala Committee (SSC) with CM as the head is underway. Gujarat already has enough to enjoy the laurels of its victory in the nautical race among the maritime states. Gujarat is home to one of the largest ship-breaking and
recycling yards in the world at Alang. Besides, the state houses three liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and other ship-related facilities. A fourth LNG terminal is also on the pipeline.10 The state also operates the Ghogha-Dahej Roll-on, Roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service, a first-of-its-kind initiative in South Asia.11 Moreover, the GMB is also chalking out plans to develop a maritime cluster, on the models of Dubai and Singapore, to provide maritime-commercial “soft services” based in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), Gandhinagar.12
Other Regional Perspectives
The rest of the constituents in the sub-national maritime complex are still in the nascence to obtain an edge in maritime paradiplomatic capital. However, states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have already established state maritime boards (SMBs). In September 2018, the AP assembly passed the maritime board bill for the fourth time owing to repeated rejections by the Centre on grounds of technical issues and is awaiting a fresh approval.13 Sources confirm that the bill for the Odisha Maritime Board (OMB) is formulated and the steps for tabling in the state assembly are afoot.14 And, citing a modicum of maritime activity, Goa proposed to create a State Maritime Security Committee (SMSC) in lieu of an SMB.15 Moreover, the central government’s National Maritime Development Policy (NMDP) seeks the maritime states to establish SMBs mandatorily to qualify for financial assistance to develop port infrastructure.
If the states are to further a paradiplomatic strategy in the maritime front, a reorientation in terms of adding options such as the blue economy, marine/maritime tourism, coastal tourism, fisheries and so forth into the inventory of enablers, apart from port-led development strategy of exploiting the 163 non-major ports (which are functioning under the aegis of coastal state governments), is a prerequisite that can fetch adequate dividends in this direction. A report says that Kerala was invited for a ministerial-level meeting on the blue economy in Mauritius in 2017.16 But, no further progress was registered. Kerala, which is equipped with a broad network of inland waterways, can harness the prospects of hinterland hydro-connectivity which could give ample thrust to the blue economy and marine tourism to enhance its maritime footprint.
The Muziris Heritage Project, which is dubbed as the first Green Project in Kerala and the largest Heritage Conservation Project in India, has received the support of UNESCO and aims to transform the ancient seaport of Muziris into a globally renowned
maritime tourist destination.17 Alappuzha Heritage Project, which is in the run with aid from the Netherlands, seeks to usher in a conservation and preservation programme through historical canals and backwater connectivity.18 Kerala State Maritime Development Corporation (KSMDC) and Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) strengthen the institutional imperative vis-à-vis the state’s nautical pursuits. The latter’s progress in maritime endeavours combining vessel-building and promotion of marine tourism is remarkable. The corporation already maintains two sea- going tourism vessels named Sagara Rani I and II.19 In 2018, the body had undocked an Egyptian-themed luxury vessel named ‘Nefertiti”, to be operated between Kochi and Kozhikode, at a cost of Rs 16.42 crores.20 The KSINC is on its way to build a theme cruise vessel with planned destinations connecting Lakshadweep, Andaman, Maldives and Dubai.21 Apart from this to-be-built vessel project named Andromeda, another solar- powered cruise vessel is also under construction in Sri Lanka.22
The Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation (KSCADC) is yet another body responsible for sustainable practices in coastal and fisheries infrastructure development. In a first, the Kottayam Port and Container Terminal (KPACT), an Inland Container Depot (ICD), began plying its barge service through the National Waterways III and IX with its maiden consignment to the Vallarpadam Container Terminal at Kochi in March 2019.23 This facility is expected to place two of the inland waterways in the navigation maps of the state’s export-import (EXIM) cargo.
Dry Ports are another option for the states, which are geographically both touched and untouched by the sea, if inland waterways is not a viable one, to venture into bridging their maritime-foreign hiatus through the EXIM cargo movement. There is a large network of dry ports operating within the country across various states including the non- coastal affiliates like Assam, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.24 Goa is the only maritime state lacking a dry port. A release from the Press Information Bureau states that 21 dry ports are currently under construction.25 Of these, 5 ports are coming up in non-maritime states such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and the landlocked UT of Delhi. Moreover, in November 2018, India’s first Multi-Modal Inland Waterways Port was inaugurated on river Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.26 Succinctly put, connectivity helps lure even the non-maritime counterparts into the realm of “nautical economy” through indirect links.
Besides, touted as the first national conclave on the blue economy, BLUECON, held on February 26-28 2019 with the support of the Government of Maharashtra, at Navi Mumbai exemplified the emerging role of private players in the sector.27 The forum sought to generate a maritime perspective on the role of the state in designing a feasible stratagem to become a potential blue economy practitioner.
Coastal police stations, run by the state governments, illustrate the role of federal units in the domain of “brown-water” capabilities. Reports indicate that, of the 204 proposed coastal police stations in the country, 176 are functional at present.28 These “water constabularies” can consider prospective tie-ups with foreign marine police units in the capacity building and the sharing of best practices including marine intelligence. Though a case for security prefix also finds a place in the maritime paradiplomatic grid, it could end up being far from certain. However, there are enough reasons to lament on such a build- up given the Kerala State Police’s experience in international cooperation. The state police through its various initiatives had gained immense international exposure in recent years. In March 2019, the Kerala Police Cyberdome, a research and development (R&D) body on cybersecurity, has entered into an agreement of cooperation with the Dubai Police on matters of cyber intelligence, artificial intelligence and cyber-crime software development.29 Besides, the state police force has been conducting an annual International Cyber Security Conference – COCON – in association with the Canada-based POLCYB (The Society for the Policing of Cyberspace).30 These precedents are a huge stimulant to think over the possibilities of extending cooperation among water policing units at the transnational level.
Above all, it becomes necessary that the ideational basis of the term “sub-nationalism” shall transcend the usually-approached negative connotation which accentuates an anti- national paradigm. The former should evolve past this narrow dimension, and embracing “sub-national multilateralism” as a new feature of foreign endeavours based on a maritime template can help concoct a new roadmap. Once materialised, aligning the paradiplomatic efforts with the “oceanic” contours at much larger agenda like Indo-Pacific Strategy, and Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) could also be thought of. Scripting a micro-narrative on these lines is significant in the sense that apportioning roles for states can produce better results. Albeit the national maritime discourse conveniently neglects any serious recognition, the Indian maritime prowess has invariably been progressing in tandem with the contributions of the coastal states.
The absence of statehood makes the coastal UTs theoretically implausible to come within the schema of paradiplomacy. Coastal states must undertake the idea of engineering themselves into maritime sub-powerhouses. Assimilating Gujarat’s experience in maritime growth can be a guiding torch for the state units to derive a suitable strategy amenable for their respective “maritime climates”. Thanks to the unequal industrial profiles and distinct coastal geographies, the littoral federal units would differ in their maritime specifics which obviously deter the likelihood of uniform policy action. For a small state such as Goa with slender maritime performance, attaching paradiplomatic pursuits on those patterns are easier said than done. Despite this asymmetry in the maritime sphere, fisheries and tourism are two areas which could be equally exploited by the states with coastal affiliation. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, can also factor into the prospective strategic port initiatives such as Vizhinjam and Enayam respectively, to grab a deserving place in the “seafaring federalism”. In toto, the emerging trends unfold the possibilities of embarking on maritime paradiplomacy as a new practice of coastal state administration if sufficient manoeuvres are put into effect.
*Adarsh Vijay is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Madras Christian College, Chennai. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of the NMF. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes and References
1 “Paradiplomacy in India: Evolution and Operationalisation”, at https://www.orfonline.org/research/paradiplomacy-india-evolution-operationalisation/ (Accessed February 12, 2019)
2 “MEA to oversee foreign investments in states”, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mea- to-oversee-foreign-investments-in-states/article6530956.ece (Accessed February 12, 2019)
3 “Overview”, at https://gmbports.org/overview (Accessed February 12, 2019)
4 “Vibrant Gujarat Summit: Port sector attracts Rs 36, 000 cr MoUs on first day, at https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-vibrant-gujarat-summit-port-sector-attracts-rs-36-000-cr- mous-on-first-day-2709695 (Accessed February 12, 2019)
7 “Gujarat to embrace new tech for decongesting ports, reduce pollution, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/gujarat-to-embrace-new-tech-for-decongesting- ports-reduce-pollution/articleshow/67632348.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)
9 “Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2019: Foresight Group signs MoU with Gujarat Maritime Board to develop India’s first CNG Terminal”, at https://www.thestatesman.com/business/vibrant-gujarat-summit- 2019-foresight-group-signs-mou-gujarat-maritime-board-develop-indias-first-cng-terminal- 1502727178.html (Accessed February 15, 2019)
10 “In Gujarat, PM Modi inaugurates 3 LNG Terminals”, at https://www.business- standard.com/article/news-ani/in-gujarat-pm-modi-inaugurates-3-lng-terminals- 118093000434_1.html (Accessed March 10, 2019)
11 “What is Gujarat’s Ro-Ro ferry service?”, at https://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/what-is- gujarat-ro-ro-ferry-service-ghogha-dahej-4900767/ (Accessed February 15, 2019)
12 “India’s first maritime cluster to come up at GIFT City in Gandhinagar”, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/indias-first-maritime-cluster-to-come-up-at- gift-city/articleshow/58864352.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)
13 “Assembly passes Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board Bill”, at http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2018/sep/18/assembly-passes-andhra- pradesh-maritime-board-bill-1873565.html (Accessed February 15, 2019)
14 “Fresh Bill for Odisha Maritime Board soon”, at https://www.dailypioneer.com/2018/state- editions/fresh-bill-for-odisha-maritime-board-soon.html (Accessed February 15, 2019)
15 “Maritime security committee gets govt nod”, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Maritime-security-committee-gets-govt- nod/articleshow/55123488.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)
16 “Kerala probing possibilities of ‘Blue Economy’, at https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/kerala-probing-possibilities-of-blue-economy- mathrubhumi-1.1874863 (Accessed February 20, 2019)
17 “Unesco, Kerala government agree to reinvigorate Spice Route Project”, at http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2019/feb/22/unesco-state-govt-agree-to- reinvigorate-spice-route-project-1941994.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)
18 “Heritage Project for Venice of the East, Alappuzha”, at
https://www.keralatourism.org/news/alappuzha-heritage-project/1467 (Accessed March 08, 2019)
19 “Now, get set for cruise tourism with State-owned KSINC”, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ksinc-set-to-plunge-into-cruise- tourism/article25124818.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)
20 Kerala plans cruise tourism with Egyptian-themed Nefertiti vessel, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/nefertiti-cruise-vessel-launch-this- month/article25091388.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)
21 “Get to the City of Gold in state’s own cruise liner”, at http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2019/feb/22/get-to-the-city-of-gold-in-states-own- cruise-liner-1941979.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)
22 “Now, get set for cruise tourism with State-owned KSINC”, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ksinc-set-to-plunge-into-cruise- tourism/article25124818.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)
23 “Cargo movement begins on Kottayam-Kochi inland waterway”, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/cargo-movement-begins-on- waterway/article26475814.ece (Accessed March 10, 2019)
24 “Inland Container Depots in India”, at https://www.translog.in/icsindia.html (Accessed March 10, 2019)
25 “21 Dry Ports are currently under development in the country”, at
http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=176383 (Accessed March 10, 2019)
26 “PM inaugurated India’s first inland waterways port in Varanasi”, at https://www.rediff.com/news/report/pm-inaugurates-indias-first-inland-waterways-port-in- varanasi/20181112.htm (Accessed March 10, 2019)
27 “Overview”, at https://www.bluecon.in/ (Accessed March 08, 2019)
28 “176 coastal police stations are operational: Government”, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/176-coastal-police-stations-are-operational- government/articleshow/50281059.cms (Accessed February 12, 2019)
29 “Kerala Cyberdome, Dubai police tie up on cyber security”, at https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/030319/kerala-dubai-tie-up-on-e- crimes.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)
30 “Kerala to host global cyber security conference in Kochi”, at https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/kerala-to-host-global-cyber-security-conference- in-kochi/article24908015.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)