In the backdrop of China’s hawkish stance on maritime issues, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Thursday said the Indian Ocean Region has a potential for a clash of interests and that the country should be vigilant to protect its important asset.

Addressing a meeting of the Multiagency Maritime Security Group on policy, Doval spoke on maritime interests not just to draw attention on its security dimensions, which he described was more complex than managing land boundary, but for economic growth as well given that 95 percent of the country's trade is through the sea route.

"In national security discourse importance of land and maritime borders are very different. You cannot fence them, put 24x7 vigilance, concept of sovereignty in land borders is territorial and well-defined. Its focus has been less but its importance is much more. Defending our maritime borders is complex, with problems it causes and challenges it brings. But it serves several interests, especially strategic and economic... It is an important trade route globally," NSA Doval emphasised.

Doval said, "The cardinal principle of security is our vulnerabilities are directly proportional to our assets. More we develop, more assets we create, more prosperous we get, greater would be vulnerability and greater would be needed for security," he observed.

But, as per the NSA, the Indian Ocean has become competitive due to changing geopolitical scenario, a shift from being an ocean of peace. "We see a potential of having a clash of interest, we need to protect it and be vigilant," he said.

He, however, appreciated Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy for strengthening overall maritime security at the meeting which was chaired by the first National Maritime Security Coordinator Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd). The NMSC reports to NSA Doval. Others present were Chief of Naval Staff, DG Coat Guard, deputy NSAs and other top representatives of stakeholders of maritime security affairs.

The NSA also talked about India's responsibility towards neighbours which, he stated, the country was discharging, be it for disaster management or providing security. He mentioned about Colombo Security Conclave, attended by countries to tackle maritime threats in the Indian Ocean. "The trajectory of this nation is well defined, we know where we are going. And when our time comes, India will not be able to become the power it deserves to be unless it has a very strong maritime system. This is perfect timing for it," said Doval.

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