THE Arabian Sea has been in the limelight in regional and international forums since long due to its economic potential and geo-strategic importance. It covers a total area of about 3,862,000 sq km.
The maritime waterways of the region extend into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea through the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb. In the North-West, it leads to the Gulf of Oman and the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.
The Arabian Sea acts as a vital trade corridor between Asian and European states. And the choke points mentioned above are significant for global trade and energy supply. It is estimated that at least 23 per cent of global shipping transits take place through these points.
While considering the dynamics of the Arabian Sea, one must consider the presence of 56 per cent of global oil reserves in the region and the paradigms of global oil politics. The trade routes through the sea carry 40 per cent of the global oil supply and almost 20 per cent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe and Asia.
Any disruption of sea routes in the region is likely to worsen the global financial crisis, which might prove catastrophic for many fragile and developing economies. The inter-state animosities among the littoral states of the Arabian Sea and the presence of extra-regional powers have made regional peace more complex than ever. The presence of extra-regional actors to safeguard their interests in the region has made it a permanent theatre of their operations.
The competition for influence between India and China is also shaping the contours of maritime security. Moreover, the international embargo on Iran has also put the region’s maritime security at stake.
Iran’s proximity and ability to influence the Strait of Hormuz makes the unhindered flow of oil and gas tenuous.
Maritime scholars and practitioners around the globe believe that peace and stability in the Arabian Sea serves as an important factor for a more secure world order.
Maritime activities in the region continue to expand and bring benefits to people across the world. With all this growth, the socio-economic environment has changed sharply in the last few years compared to the trends observed in previous decades.
However, the maritime sector faces the rising cost of environmental degradation, emergence of global terrorism, the piracy crisis in the Gulf of Aden, and other transnational crimes like human smuggling, gun running and drug trafficking along with the mounting cost of security measures to combat such phenomena. Besides, factors such as climate change and human migration also contribute to maritime security management and influence the way seas are used.
The piracy around the Horn of Africa and other maritime crimes have compelled the regional and world powers to maintain and improve the maritime security in the Arabian Sea on a permanent basis.
Maritime security in the region can only be translated into a reality through a well-coordinated and cooperative approach involving the entire maritime community at both regional and global levels. In this situation, pursuit of co-operative maritime strategies is a matter of compulsion rather than choice.
What really should be respected is the sovereignty of each state and treating each other with equality and dignity. It would not only enhance trustworthiness and defuse tensions in the region but it would also pave the way for equitable exploitation of ocean resources, thus safeguarding the maritime interests of our future generations.
NAGHMANA ZAFAR Karachi