Oceanic resources of India and their potential
Oceans are the world’s single largest ecosystem, covering nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface, thereby providing a massive arena for emerging complex and interconnected development issues such as climate change, livelihoods, commerce, and security. According to estimates by the Global Ocean Commission, ocean resources contribute five percent of the world’s GDP, secure the jobs of three billion people, and sustain the livelihoods of 350 million.
The Indian Ocean basin is of particular importance for India, as the region’s most populous country and geopolitical keystone. Although India has long been preoccupied by continental considerations, it has recently begun to re-evaluate its priorities. India’s Indian Ocean Region strategy—which in only just taking shape—conforms closely to global priorities for preserving the Ocean as a shared resource: an important channel for trade, a sustainable resource base, and a region secure from heightened military competition, non-state actors, and catastrophic natural disasters. Achieving these objectives will require further investments in capacity, greater transparency and confidence-building measures, and enhanced institutional cooperation.
Indian Ocean is rich in natural resources. Forty per cent of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin. Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15 per cent of the world’s total and has increased some 13-fold between 1950 and 2010 to 11.5 million tonnes. Aquaculture in the region has also grown 12-fold since 1980. Although global fishing is reaching its natural limitations, the Indian Ocean may be able to sustain increases in production. Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed. Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.
The Fishing sector is traditionally construed as one of the most important sectors of the Blue Economy. Its contribution is significantly felt in economic activities such as national income, trade, employment generation, food and nutritional security and various kinds of non-traditional economic security. The growing importance of the sector in India is due to domestic consumption, trade and cultural preferences.
India is emerging as a global player in the fisheries sector. Consistent with the international trend, the share of India’s capture fishing is declining and aquaculture share is rising, thus opening large opportunities for promoting domestic production. In this regard, globalisation has made a major contribution for the expansion of demand for fisheries in the domestic as well as international markets. India has developed expertise in satellite launching, fabrication and application of such systems. This facility can be effectively used in the IORA region for identifying and locating fish clusters in the sea for facilitating capture fishing. Such satellite facilities may be used alternatively in other areas of economic activities such as search and rescue operations, meteorology and other applications in the region.
As a fast-growing emerging country, development of port infrastructure plays an important role in promoting various developmental activities, including trade. The Ministry of Shipping reports that much of India’s international trade (about 90 per cent by volume and 70 per cent by value) is carried through maritime transport. The sector covers a wide range of services which are broadly divided into two categories: shipping industry and maritime logistics.
Marine manufacturing is a globally dynamic sector and an important segment of the Blue Economy. Korea, Japan and China are emerging as key market players replacing the US and the EU. India has the potentiality to emerge as a new global leader in ship manufacturing. Its meteoric rise in the global market has been perceptible during the last decade.
India has a strong ship breaking industry. The global market for this industry is mostly shared by countries such as India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.These four countries accounted for nearly 67 per cent of the global ship breaking industry in 2011. India is emerging as the largest market for the global industry along with Bangladesh.Though the industry is a highly polluting one, it has large spillover effects on the Indian economy. India has a large ship building base, but it needs to be modernised. At present, India has 23 shipyards, of which 7 are under administrative control of the Central Government, 2 with state governments, and the rest are in the private sector. The Indian shipping industry, with a marginal share of 0.1 per cent of global shipbuilding market in 2002, has expanded manifold during the last decade, accounting for 1 per cent of world shipbuilding industry.
This global industry has strong entry barriers and also high-risk factors which are alarmingly large. However, India has a large reservoir of a cost-effective skilled labour force and the availability of ancillaries, which can take India forward in this sector. Recently emerging global players also have similar endowments due to which they are able to compete with the US and the EU to capture a share of the global market.
In addition to the significant economic contribution of fisheries, coastal tourism, ports and hydrocarbon extraction, nearly 90 per cent of India’s trade, including energy products, travels through the Indian Ocean. The shifting of global economic engines to the region has enhanced the region’s salience for Indian and global economic growth by way of large and growing markets, investments, regional hubs for energy, transport, tourism, education and healthcare. Regional growth and stability is also essential for the well-being of the large and widespread Indian Diaspora which makes immense contributions to the nation’s economy.
Unfortunately, the region also suffers from disruptive forces of piracy, armed conflicts, organised crime and terrorism, posing a major challenge not only to the security of maritime trade routes but also to the mainland as brought to fore by the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Deteriorating ocean ecosystems and global warming can disrupt weather systems with adverse impacts on the monsoon and freshwater availability with increasing frequency of droughts and floods. Therefore, safety, security and conservation of marine ecosystems of the Indian Ocean are not a matter of choice, but an essential national security priority for India.
India has always sought greater cooperation in the Indian Ocean region and played a key role in setting up and strengthening the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), since re-named as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). It now brings together 21 member states, 7 dialogue partners and 2 observers. IORA has identified six priority areas for cooperation, namely maritime safety and security; trade and investment facilitation; fisheries management; disaster risk reduction; academic and scientific cooperation; and tourism and cultural exchanges, which are in line with India’s priorities. The Indian Ocean region has also exhibited considerable dynamism with its global trade tripling since 2003, reaching US$ 4.2 trillion in 2012. A significant achievement was the intra-regional trade growing from US$ 302 billion to US$ 1.2 trillion in the same period, a clear evidence of growing regional economic linkages.