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Indo-Pacific witnessing day-to-day competition for influence: Navy Chief

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Navy is working on "tailor-made" solutions to help friendly countries confront pressing challenges in the maritime domain with a broader aim to emerge as a preferred security partner and make a real contribution for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on Wednesday.

Without naming China, he also talked about some states applying "land-centric" territorial mindsets in the basic idea of global commerce in the Indo-Pacific with an attempt to seek greater domination and control that has created challenges to global rules.

In an address at a seminar, Admiral Singh said there has been a "day-to-day" competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific that brings with it attendant and evolving challenges, noting that the rules of game are "constantly changing".

He said the Indian Navy has prioritised certain elements in its efforts to play a more constructive and stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific that includes working towards developing collective maritime competence in the region.

"Our Navy's endeavour is to help harness competencies collectively to tackle the common challenges being faced. In this, creation of a participative inclusive ecosystem rather than a prohibitive elitist one has been our priority," he said.

He said the second element is to look outward and be ambitious in its engagement while the third one is to engage with partner nations to develop interoperability and trust with an aim to come together in a "plug and play" fashion when needed.

Admiral Singh said the final element is to focus on the real problems being faced by regional nations on a day-to-day basis and help them with tailor-made solutions.

"For example, the island nations in the Indian Ocean Region, their economy is tourism-oriented. Their problems are of drug smuggling, human smuggling," he said.

"Therefore, as the Indian Navy, we are working to develop tailor-made solutions to these problems. Only when we address the challenges that the nations in the region face, we can hope to emerge as a preferred security partner in the region and make a real contribution towards a free, more open and increasingly inclusive region," Singh said.

The top Navy commander cautioned that any contest in the region will impact all other countries and not just the contenders as he called for a comprehensive approach by like-minded countries to deal with the emerging challenges.

"There is a danger of global commons turning into contested seas. Competition in the Indo-Pacific is becoming more diverse, involving levers of diplomacy, commerce, ideologies, values, science and technology apart from the military," he said.

"If we are to ensure the security and safety of global commons, like-minded navies must come together to manage and maintain the global commons for prosperity," the Navy chief added.

He said the future of the Indo-Pacific hinges on cooperative efforts of like-minded nations, asserting that prosperity, security and growth for all in the region can only be accomplished under a collaborative approach.

"We have to be aware of the evolving nature of the competition and the contestation in this region.

"What we are seeing today is some states applying land centric territorial mindsets in the basic idea of global commerce, attempting to seek greater domination and control. and therefore it creates challenges to international rules, regulations and reinterpretation of such conventions," he added.

There has been growing global concern over China's increasing expansionist behaviour in the Indo-Pacific that has forced many countries to come out with strategies to deal with the challenge.

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