The G7 has assured progress on the following five action points: a sustainable planet, economic stability and transformation, healthy lives, investment in better future and stronger together.
Pune: The 48th G7 summit took place from 26 to 28 June, in Schloss Elmau, Krün, Bavarian Alps, Germany. The meeting has even greater significance for India and the world, among the positive hypes and negative hopes, set by the domestic constituencies and global narrative peddlers. The unipolar global order is being challenged by the multipolar geopolitical and geostrategic realities. The West represented by the G7 is continuously being sidelined, in terms of determining the dominant global narrative. The desperate attempts by the G7 to build an anti-Russia sentiment, post the invasion of Ukraine and convert that to strategic isolation of Russia from the global network has failed. Sanctions and other political and economic instruments to isolate Russia have proved to be counter-productive. At the face of it, the broad agenda for the present summit was Russia, climate and technology.
India seems to be in an enviable position. The rise of the dragon and its belligerence in pursuing its strategic interest in recent times have been a big worry for the West. In the present geostrategic scenario, India with its robust democratic structure is a prudent geopolitical investment for any global power. Nobody can afford to ignore India on any front. India has also been far more assertive in pursuing its strategic interest, even at the cost of standing up to the geopolitical pressures from the West. The German Presidency of the G7 invited India along with other nations like Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to the summit. India, has to play a significant role in the ongoing global power play, to make sure it is relevant in the changing global order. The interactions at multiple levels of G2G (government to government), C2C (company to company) and P2P (people to people) have to intensify and bring more value to the domestic constituency and also bilateral partners. The bilateral interactions with each of the G7 nations have assumed particular significance, given that each of the nations within the G7 is seeking a Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) with India, as all of them look at India as an investment destination.
The geostrategic scenario in the Indo-Pacific and in particular the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has raised the security bogey for India. The G7 is also competing within itself to sell military hardware to India. India has to find a balance between security and growth. The Prime Minister announced the Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision for India, way back in 2015. The volatile IOR and the Indo-Pacific has become the global theatre for strategic interaction and every global power wants to have a strategic stake in this pie. G7 too has committed to the Indo-Pacific and made significant announcements to bolster its strategic presence in the region.
The G7 is committed towards an equitable world order and has assured progress on the following five action points: a sustainable planet, economic stability and transformation, healthy lives, investment in better future and stronger together.
If we look at the five action points, governance becomes the key to achieving the commitment of equitable world order. The governance mechanism needs enhanced situational awareness or domain awareness. Digital transformation, thus, is the critical requirement. Transparency is the core, and given the strategic shift towards the maritime space of the Indo-Pacific, the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) holds significance. The conventional MDA has remained security driven and limited to the surface. The underwater domain that holds over 70% of the entire maritime area, needs far greater focus. The Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) framework proposed by the Maritime Research Centre (MRC), has significant relevance to the Digital Ocean construct and could comprehensively address the requirement of all the four stakeholders. The stakeholders include, security, blue economy, environment and disaster management and science and technology. The illustration presents the UDA framework. The UDA framework addresses the policy and technology intervention, along with acoustic capacity and capability building.
The UDA framework comprehensively addresses the five action points stated for G7, as discussed here:
1. A Sustainable Planet: The blue ocean with over 70% earth surface and equally significant depth has major role in climate control, environmental sustainability and protection of the biodiversity. The UDA framework through the digital ocean construct will allow real-time appreciation of the ground realities and facilitate enhanced management of the sustainability concerns. The underwater domain is not regulated due to lack of transparency leading to poor governance mechanisms.
2. Economic Stability and Transformation: The blue economy has unimaginable potential towards economic growth and prosperity across multiple sectors. The digital ocean transformation backed by the UDA framework will make sure a good governance model to manage the sustainable blue economy push. The rising maritime activities for economic growth and prosperity need to be managed with effective and nuanced regulatory mechanism. The poor nations in the tropical littoral waters need to be supported with enhanced digital ocean construct backed by science and technology tools to accelerate the realisation of the blue economic growth potential.
3. Healthy Lives: Climate change and biodiversity have a deep connection with global health management. Poor water quality management and failed water resource management have direct bearing on the health of the poor and the marginalized. The UDA framework for the digital ocean construct is the most critical pillar for managing the climate change concern along with water quality and resource management for better global health.
4. Investment in a Better Future: The future of the world lies in the blue oceans and the freshwater systems. Unless we make sure, these water bodies are managed properly, we will have no future. The infrastructure required and the know-how desired for enhanced UDA is unimaginable. Thus, the UDA framework proposed by MRC encouraged pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts across the stakeholders and policy makers is the most effective. The transparency and good governance will facilitate financial institutions to allocate better mechanisms to support such projects and also finance the marginalised coastal communities. The Blue Bonds and many other instruments can be a big boost to the blue economic initiative.
5. Stronger Together: The core concept of the UDA framework is pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts. The global community will benefit from collaboration and shared investment in security and growth as envisaged by the UDA framework. Such joint holding of stakes in the future will minimize competition and confrontation in the future. Issues of climate change and sustainable environment are extremely critical for the future generations and thus shared investment is a great idea.
The recently concluded G7 meeting under German presidency announced the launch of partnership for global infrastructure and investment to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given the strategic relevance of the Indo-Pacific region and the growing economic rise of the nations in the tropical littoral waters, it is important to acknowledge the UDA framework. The port infrastructure in the tropical littoral waters requires significant sediment management efforts to ensure navigability of the ships. If not managed well, the ports in the tropical region could become unviable, thus the UDA framework becomes critical for such new initiatives. With the commitment for sustainable blue economy and other maritime activities including shipping, the Underwater Radiated Noise (URN) management assumes significance. The URN management will bring another new dimension to the sustainable shipping basket, under the MARPOL convention. The Acoustic Habitat Degradation is a major concern with the unregulated rise of shipping. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), has taken cognition of the URN issue, however the speed at which such an issue needs to be taken up on war footing.
The international community has put a lot of trust on the United Nations as a forum for interaction and policy formulation on global matters. The UN has declared this as the Decade of the Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are another set of instruments to focus on climate change impact, biodiversity protection and environment sustainability, while we pursue growth. The SDG-14 in particular and many others have significant necessity to progress the UDA framework. The other forums like G7, G-20, IORA, BIMSTEC, BRICS, NAFTA, ASEAN and many more may include the UDA framework in their agenda point. By setting up of a Centre of Excellence (CoE) on the UDA framework as part of multiple such groupings will ensure that the diversity of region and applications are taken care of. The unique structure of the CoE includes and multi-disciplinary research centre, that will allow site specific understanding local realities. An academic centre to provide formal academic program as per the accepted framework to generate a pool of human resource for the future. A skilling centre to impart job specific skills to the masses. An incubation centre to encourage innovation across the sectors and applications to build on the local site specific requirements. Last but not the least is the policy centre that will formulate the strategy and tactical aspects to drive an ambitious vision like this.
Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das is Founder & Director, Maritime Research Center (MRC), Pune.