The Indian Navy will be organizing an International Fleet Review (IFR) in February 2016 off Vishakhapatnam.  Traditionally,  fleet  reviews  are  held  by  countries  to  showcase  their  naval power and foster maritime cooperation with other countries.1  IFR-2016 may be seen in context of   India‟s   new   maritime   security   strategy  titled  „Ensuring   Secure   Seas:  Indian   Maritime Security   Strategy‟   (IMSS-2015).  The  IMSS-2015   expands   India‟s   primary   as   well   as   the secondary  areas  of  maritime  interest  beyond  the  traditional  Indian  Ocean  limits.  The  areas now stretch from the western African littorals to the Western Pacific; thereby, affirming a tack to the „Indo-Pacific‟ construct. Among the key national objectives stated in the IMSS-2015 is to shape a benign security environment  in India‟s neighbourhood through engagement  with the countries of the region.2 The IFR-2016 is being conducted in consonance with this aim.

Among  the  key  countries  that  India  seeks  to  engage  with  across  the  oceans  are  those constituting the European Union (EU). The EU has lately emerged as an important stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region, as evidenced by the anti-piracy mission of EUNAVFOR Atalanta. In June  2014,  the  EU  promulgated  the  European  Union  Maritime  Security  Strategy  (EUMSS), which    has    become    another    milestone    in    the    EU‟s    endeavours    towards    maritime multilateralism.

Against this backdrop, this article seeks to analyse the maritime cooperative framework developed  by  the  EU,  and  „whether‟  and  „to  what  extent‟  it  can  be  replicated  in  the  Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Evolution of EUMSS

The  maritime  dimension  of  the  EU  may  be  better  understood  by  examining  the  EU  as  a political entity. After the Second World War, six European countries came together and formed European   Coal   and   Steel   Community   (ECSC)   in   1952.   Eventually,   it   became   European Community; and by the end of the Cold War, the European Community transformed itself to create a closer union, which came to be known as the European Union (EU).3

With its policy of  enlargement, the EU has enlarged its borders  since its inception. Though Europe has always had a maritime element, but since 1999, the EU enlargement, the changing security arrangements and the emergence of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) – later  known  as  Common  Security  and  Defence  Policy  –  imparted  greater  momentum  to  its maritime dimension. It was in 2003, that the EU emerged as a security actor with the launch of European Security Strategy (ESS). Later, in  2007, the commission adopted a new Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) for the European Union. Highlighting the importance of the oceans for the  EU,  this  policy  articulate  an  all-round  approach  to  the  EU  maritime  issues  but  it  was observed to be inadequate for the multifaceted marmite challenges. In 2008, the EU launched its  first  joint  naval  operation,  the  EUNAVFOR  Somalia-  Operation  Atalanta  against  piracy, which brought home lessons of an international cooperation and a comprehensive multilateral response to maritime security.4

According  to  the  Joint  Communication  released  by  the  EU  in  March  2014,  there  are multifaceted maritime security challenges including maritime-territorial disputes, proliferation of weapon of mass destruction (WMD), piracy and other maritime crimes, terrorism, marine pollution   and   natural   disasters   in   the   maritime   domain.5

These   security   imperatives compelled  the  member  states  to  come  together  and  formulate  the  EU  Maritime  Security Strategy  (EUMSS).  The  strategy  does  not  create  new  frameworks  but  strives  to  strengthen existing  structures,  policies  and  achievements  in  the  maritime  domain.6   The  aim  of  this strategy is to bring together both internal and external aspects of the EU maritime security for building  a  coordinated  approach,  promote  effective  and  credible  partnerships  in  the  global maritime  domain,  cost  efficient  maritime  security  initiative,  and    enhance  synergy  among member states.7   It is based on four guiding principles, which are:

  1. Cross-Sectoral Approach that includes cooperation from all authorities, both civilian and military, and EU agencies.
  2. Functional Integrity in that entails the Strategy will advance the maritime response competence of the union and its member states.
  3. Respect for Rules and Principles where compliance to the international laws like the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and applicable bilateral treaties is emphasised.
  4. Maritime Multilateralism, which  includes  cooperation  with  relevant  international partners  and  organisations  especially  the  United  Nations  (UN)  and  the  North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The EU is a unique example of cooperative multilateralism and the adoption of the EUMSS reiterates this fact. The EUMSS is an appropriate example of cooperation and coordination of internal and external, private and public, besides intergovernmental and supranational entities through  a  comprehensive  security  approach.8     In  December  2014,  the  EU  adopted an  action plan,  which  set  out  130  actions,  which  will  translate  the  objectives  of  the  Strategy  into practice.9  The Action Plan highlights the following facets that are essential for the effectiveness of the Strategy:

  1. A coordinated approach on maritime security issues in international fora such as Group of 8 (G-8), International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and NATO;
  2. A well-integrated and interconnected maritime awareness, surveillance and information sharing system;
  3. Cost effective   capability   development   and   capacity   building   through   enhanced cooperation by public and private actors including research and industry;
  4. A better preparation, anticipation and responsiveness on the part of the member states to prevent criminal activities and protect critical maritime infrastructure.
  5. EUMSS provides  a  platform  for  the  EU  and  the  member  states  to  bring  together  the innovative  technologies  for  improved  efficiency,  sustainability  and  effectiveness  of maritime operations.

The successful coordination achieved during Operation Atalanta and the subsequent launch of the EUMSS have facilitated the EU‟s second combined naval operation EUNAVFOR Med in response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.

The IOR Context

It may be worth examining whether the EU model can be replicated in the IOR. According to an analysis, “the circumstances of the IOR are in many respects quite different from those of the Atlantic or Pacific. The concept of regionalism is not well developed.”10  Geographically, the region is diverse, disparate and disaggregated, and lacks common historical identity. It is also the locus of many fragile states, leading to the phrases – „arc of crisis‟ and „arc of instability‟.11

Further, the maritime response, capabilities, capacities and strategic quotient vary significantly across  the  region.12   The  other  issues  relate  to  the  growing  naval  footprints  of  China  and extensive  involvement  of  non-resident  actors  in  the  Indian  Ocean,  which  make  the  whole equation even more complex.13

Nonetheless,  the  existing  economic,  environmental  and  human  security  challenges  in the IOR mandate an exigent need for maritime cooperation. The region faces some common non-traditional  maritime  security  issues  such  as  the  vulnerability  of  International  Shipping Lanes (ISL), piracy, maritime terrorism and natural  disasters.14  It  is argued that  for stability and security within the IOR, efforts to device a regional cooperative framework are a foregone proposition.   Among the existing regional forums, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the  Indian  Ocean  Naval  Symposium  (IONS)  have  some  potential  to  foster  maritime  security cooperation.  However,  the  aspect  of  maritime  safety  and  security  is  relatively  nascent  in  the IORA. Besides, the IONS itself is a new forum, and is likely to address only naval cooperation at the functional-level. It is well known that “the common maritime security strategy (such as the EUMSS) requires active engagement at the highest political levels…”15  IORA and IONS will take time to develop and set norms of conduct akin to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS).16

The  existing  sub-regional  fora  such  as  the  South  Asian  Association  for  Regional Cooperation  (SAARC),  the  Southern  African  Development  Community  (SADC),  and  the  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) do not emphasise on maritime safety and security; and thus, are unlikely  to  contribute  towards  the  evolution  of  a  IOR-wide  maritime  security  cooperative architecture. Nonetheless, “…the visionary leaders of these sub-regional groupings could play critical role in devising a region-wide way ahead”.17  However, considering the diverse strategic outlook of countries, forming a common view would be a major challenge.

One of the key constraints for a common maritime response in the IOR is that most of the countries prefer bilateral rather than multilateral solutions. Nonetheless, cooperation could be established through small groupings and ultimately “they may form a connecting chain and hence capable of being integrated in a larger body in the years to come”.18  In this regard, a „Bay of Bengal Maritime Cooperative Framework‟ (BoBMCF), where smaller groupings can work to address  non-traditional  maritime  security  threats,  would  be  a  viable  alternative.    With  the recent   resolution   of   the   maritime   disputes   between   India,   Bangladesh   and   Myanmar, aspirations for smaller trilateral cooperative initiatives similar to the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka„trilateral‟  have  increased.  Such  initiatives  could  be  expanded  beyond  the  trilateral  level  to address sub-regional issues, such as through coordinated patrols and cooperative surveillance in the Bay of Bengal.19

Concluding Thoughts

Each  region  has  their  characteristic  maritime  threats  and  challenges.  Europe  too,  has  had  a troubled past with major conflicts and clashes of interests. The post Second World War Europe had to address two immediate challenges:   first to rebuild devastated economies; and second, to  bring  stability  and  security  to  the  region.  These  common  concerns  paved  the  way  for  the creation  of  the  EU.  Currently,  the  EU  is  facing  internal  challenges  such  as  the  Euro  crisis, migrant influx from West Asia and North Africa, as well as the possibility of Britain‟s exit from the Union. Britain has played a significant role in the EUNAVFOR operations as the UK is one most advanced military power in the EU and hence its exit will affect the effectiveness of the operation20.  Further,  as  some  member  states  have  reduced  their  defence  expenditures,21   it remains to be seen how they will balance the use of military capacities in civilian-led maritime security activities  and  respective  national,  CSDP or NATO  initiatives. However,  the  common interests led the EU to launch a comprehensive response in the form of EUMSS. The EUMSS is an important step towards a pan-regional maritime security cooperative framework.

Unlike the EU, IOR is  a disparate  and  diverse, and it  may take much long to create a pan-IOR framework. Nonetheless, the IOR could move towards greater interdependence, and forge  cooperative  ties  at  the  sub-regional  levels  against  common  non-traditional  maritime threats.

The  Bay  of  Bengal  –  given  its  rising  strategic  salience  and  the  resolution  of  maritime disputes  –  is  an  area  with  a  high  potential  for  maritime  security  multilateralism.   With  the IMSS-2015  having  charted  its  maritime  strategy  to  provide  „net  security‟  in  the  Indo-Pacific region,22  India could facilitate establishing such a structure in the Bay of Bengal sub-region. In this regard, the Indian Navy has proposed an initiative called the “Partnership for Prosperity in the  Bay  of  Bengal”.23   Further,  India  could  examine  the  case  of  EU‟s  maritime  cooperative arrangements, including those for enhancing maritime domain awareness (MDA), and multi- agency   and   multi-sectoral   coordination   to   replicate   the   same   in   India‟s   sub-regional neighbourhood.

About the Author 

Nitika  Srivastava  is  a  Research  Associate,  National  Maritime  Foundation,  New  Delhi.  The views expressed are her own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the NMF. She can be reached


1See, ‘International Fleet Review’,

2Gurpreet   S.   Khurana,   (2015)  ‘Net   Security   Provider’  Defined:   An   Analysis   of  India’s  New  Maritime   Strategy   2015’,, (accessed on December 11, 2015).

3Pascal Fontain,(2014) , ‘The European Union explained: European Union in 12 Lessons’,, (accessed on November 30, 2015).

4Basil  Germond,  ‘The  EU’s  Security  and  the  Sea:  Defining  a  Maritime  Security  Strategy’,  European Security,  Vol.  20, No.  4,2011, pp. 563-584.

5Joint  Communication  to  the  European  Parliament  and  the  Council,  (2014),  ‘For  an  Open  and  Secure  Global     Maritime Domain: Elements For A European Union Maritime Security Strategy’, http://Eur Lex.Europa.Eu/LegalContent/EN/TXT/?Qid=1395676070971&Uri=CELEX:52014JC0009, (accessed on November 27,2015).

6Ioannis  Parisis,  ‘The  Maritime  Dimension  of  European  Security:  Strategies,  Initiatives,  Synergies’,  Tuft  University,  Working Paper, 1/2015,, (accessed on December 1, 2015).

7‘European Union Maritime Security Strategy 2014’, Council of the European Union,, (accessed on December 1, 2015).

8Lennart Landman, ‘The EU Maritime Security Strategy: Promoting or Absorbing European Defence      Cooperation?’, Clingendael Policy Brief, 2015,, (accessed on2 December, 2015).

9‘European Union Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS)- Action Plan’, (2014), Council of the European Union,  security/doc/20141216-action-plan_en.pdf, (accessed  on  1 December,2015).

10Lee Cordner, ‘Progressing Maritime Security Cooperation in the Indian Ocean,  Naval War College Review,   Vol. 64, No. 4,2011, pp. 68-88,

Cooperation-in-the-I.aspx, (accessed on December 11, 2015).

11Ibid, p. 78.

12Thean Potgieter, ‘Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean: Strategic Setting and Features’, Institute for Security Studies,   No.236, 2012, pp. 1-21.

13Lee Cordner, ‘Rethinking Maritime Security in the Indian ocean’, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region’, Vol. 6, No.1, 2010, pp.67-85.

14Nong  Hong,  ‘Charting  a  Maritime  Security  Cooperation  Mechanism  in  the  Indian  Ocean:  Sharing  Responsibilities  among Littoral Sates and User States’, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2012, pp. 400-412.

15Ibid, p. 81.

16Lee Cordner, ‘Progressing Maritime Security’, N. 10,  p. 80.

17Ibid, p. 81.

18K.   R.   Singh,   (2013),   ‘Regional   Cooperation   in   the   Bay   of   Bengal:   Non-Conventional   Threats-Maritime   Dimension’,, (accessed on December 14, 2015).

19K. Yhome, (2014) ‘The Bay of Bengal at the Crossroads: Potential for Cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Myanmar’, Friedrich  Ebert  Stiftung  India  Paper,,  (accessed  on  December  14,2015).

20  ‘Leaving the EU’, (2013), House of Commons Library, Research Paper 13/42, pp. 1-106.

21Vijay  Sakhuja,  (2015),  ‘India-EU:  Exploring  Maritime  Convergences’,  Maritime  Matters,  Institute  of  Peace  and  Conflict Studies,   4549,,   (accessed   on   14 December, 2015).

22  Gurpreet S. Khurana, ‘Net Security Provider’, N. 2, p. 2.

23  Discussion with Captain Gurpreet S. Khurana, 23 December 2015.

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