Vice Adm (Retd) Ashok Kumar’s appointment as maritime security coordinator brings sea of challenges

New Delhi : The government has appointed retired Vice Admiral G. Ashok Kumar as a National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC) within the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) under NSA Ajit Doval for creating common purpose among the many ministries, government departments and private players, with a say in matters of maritime security, sources said.However, the scope of the Maritime Security Coordinator’s role has not yet been made public.”This will not be an easy task, given the bureaucratic inertia to change, instinctive turf protection tendencies, and sometimes conflicting goals, which are characteristics of government organisations across the world. Admiral Kumar’s task will, frankly, be quite unenviable,” said a senior government official.Reading between the lines, and when viewed alongside the recent hike in the Budget of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard, it offers indications of a fresh seaward outlook in the government.This could be for a multitude of reasons, such as enabling growth to a $5 trillion economy, countering China’s advances in the region, increasing employment opportunities, etc.

While there is a sea of challenges that the NMSC has to work upon, there is also an ocean of opportunities.”He has numerous low-hanging fruits ready for the picking in the short term,” the official explained.Greater integration among agencies involved in coastal security and fast-tracking the National Maritime Domain Awareness project are two such initiatives that could be undertaken on an almost immediate basis.For the medium term, policies and strategies to support initiatives related to the blue economy, climate change and security of energy should be on his priority list.For instance, encouraging and driving formulation of a national maritime strategy may help in aligning efforts across sectors, which are currently operating in silos, the official said.He will also need to align closely with the Niti Aayog, which has already prepared a draft maritime policy.”If the Security Council Secretariat and the Niti Aayog can converge their efforts, the Indian maritime world will receive significant impetus and direction,” the official added.

For the long term, Admiral Kumar would need to ensure that processes and structures are established to secure and promote India’s continued growth as a maritime power, matching its economic and social growth.Some of the greatest powers in history have risen through maritime endeavours commercial, scientific, cultural, as well as military.China is doing it today, with an enviable merchant fleet, extensive maritime explorations, and the largest Navy in the world, to name a few. India needs to catch up fast.Beyond these, the single greatest opportunity that this appointment presents is a chance to bring the oceans back into the consciousness and imagination of all Indians.The government has sown the seeds for this, through SAGAR, Sagarmala, Mausam, and many more initiatives.Calling upon all the leadership, management, diplomatic and creative skills that he gained in the Navy, Admiral Kumar will need to don the mantle of skipper once again to guide this ship to its destination, the official said.



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