Adarsh Vijay*

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

Notes and References

1  “Paradiplomacy in India: Evolution and Operationalisation”, at (Accessed February 12, 2019)

2  “MEA to oversee foreign investments in states”, at to-oversee-foreign-investments-in-states/article6530956.ece (Accessed February 12, 2019)

3  “Overview”, at (Accessed February 12, 2019)

4  “Vibrant Gujarat Summit: Port sector attracts Rs 36, 000 cr MoUs on first day, at mous-on-first-day-2709695 (Accessed February 12, 2019)

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7  “Gujarat to embrace new tech for decongesting ports, reduce pollution, at ports-reduce-pollution/articleshow/67632348.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)

8 Ibid.

9  “Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2019: Foresight Group signs MoU with Gujarat Maritime Board to develop India’s first CNG Terminal”, at 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 118093000434_1.html (Accessed March 10, 2019)

11  “What is Gujarat’s Ro-Ro ferry service?”, at 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 gift-city/articleshow/58864352.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)

13  “Assembly passes Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board Bill”, at pradesh-maritime-board-bill-1873565.html (Accessed February 15, 2019)

14  “Fresh Bill for Odisha Maritime Board soon”, at editions/fresh-bill-for-odisha-maritime-board-soon.html (Accessed February 15, 2019)

15  “Maritime security committee gets govt nod”, at nod/articleshow/55123488.cms (Accessed February 15, 2019)

16  “Kerala probing possibilities of ‘Blue Economy’, at mathrubhumi-1.1874863 (Accessed February 20, 2019)

17  “Unesco, Kerala government agree to reinvigorate Spice Route Project”, at reinvigorate-spice-route-project-1941994.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)

18  “Heritage Project for Venice of the East, Alappuzha”, at (Accessed March 08, 2019)

19  “Now, get set for cruise tourism with State-owned KSINC”, at tourism/article25124818.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)

20  Kerala plans cruise tourism with Egyptian-themed Nefertiti vessel, at month/article25091388.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)

21  “Get to the City of Gold in state’s own cruise liner”, at cruise-liner-1941979.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)

22  “Now, get set for cruise tourism with State-owned KSINC”, at tourism/article25124818.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)

23  “Cargo movement begins on Kottayam-Kochi inland waterway”, at waterway/article26475814.ece (Accessed March 10, 2019)

24  “Inland Container Depots in India”, at (Accessed March 10, 2019)

25  “21 Dry Ports are currently under development in the country”, at (Accessed March 10, 2019)

26  “PM inaugurated India’s first inland waterways port in Varanasi”, at varanasi/20181112.htm (Accessed March 10, 2019)

27  “Overview”, at (Accessed March 08, 2019)

28  “176 coastal police stations are operational: Government”, at government/articleshow/50281059.cms (Accessed February 12, 2019)

29  “Kerala Cyberdome, Dubai police tie up on cyber security”, at crimes.html (Accessed March 08, 2019)

30  “Kerala to host global cyber security conference in Kochi”, at in-kochi/article24908015.ece (Accessed March 08, 2019)

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