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A comprehensive look at the ‘maritime context’

The Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore (ICSB), the Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) and the Press Institute of India (PII) jointly hosted a two-day virtual conference titled Deciphering China: The Maritime Context, in November. The webinar assumed significance, coming as it did on the 13th anniversary of 26/11, which was both a traumatic and humiliating experience for India, exposing many chinks in the security and intelligence apparatus. The webinar sought to enlighten the audience at large about the current Chinese maritime capacity and capability and the threats and challenges they pose to India. The objective was also to examine India’s current maritime status and its response mechanisms to threats from China and its allies.

Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, director-general, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), delivered the inaugural address. Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman, National Maritime Foundation (NMF), former Chief of the Naval Staff and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, delivered the keynote. Subjects covered included China Maritime Issues – Contemporary Developments, China’s Maritime Capabilities, India’s Maritime Security and Governance, India’s Maritime Security Scenario, Building A Comprehensive National Maritime Power, and Maritime Strategic Developments.

Speakers included Cmde R.S. Vasan, IN (Retd), director, C3S, and regional director, National Maritime Foundation; Vijay Sakhuja, former director, NMF; Cmde V. Venugopal, IN (Retd), member, C3S; Captain Nitin Agarwala, IN; Prof B.M. Chengappa, ICSB; Cmde Gopal Suri, IN, Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies; Cdr Arnab Das, IN (Retd), founder and director, Maritime Research Centre, Pune; Prof Rajaram Nagappa, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru; Udai Rao IN (Retd), ICSB; Vice Admiral M.P. Muralidharan, AVSM, NM (Retd), former DG, Coast Guard; Captain Himadri Das, IN; Sandeep Unnithan, (then) executive editor, India Today; Sripathi Narayanan, independent national security and foreign policy analyst; M. Venkatraman Department of Defence Studies, Madras University; Cdr Anand Kumar, IN, NMF; Vice Admiral B. Kannan, IN(Retd), and former MD & CEO, L&T Shipbuilding; Anil Devli, CEO, Indian National Shipowners’ Association; Captain L.K. Panda, former nautical adviser, Government of India; Prof V.N. Attri, Centre for Indian Ocean Studies, IORA; P.K Ghosh, former co-chair and India Rep to CSCAP, International Study Groups; Prof Shankari Sundararaman, JNU; Vice Admiral P.K. Chatterjee, former C-in-C, Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC); Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, former FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command; Prakash Nanda, editor, Geopolitics, New Delhi; Prof Kamakoti, IIT-Madras; R. Venkatesan, National Institute of Ocean Technology; and Shailesh Nayak, Director, NIAS, and former secretary, Government of India.

Krishan Varma, former special secretary, Government of India, steered the panel discussion titled, China’s Maritime Presence in the Indian Ocean and India’s Options. Vice Admiral P.K. Chatterjee, Air Marshal S Varthaman, Lt General Shankar (Retd) former director-general Artillery and prof, Aerospace Department, IIT; and Prakash Nanda participated. Sashi Nair, director, Press Institute of India, Chennai, welcomed and moderated the inaugural sessions on both the days. Pratap Heblikar, managing trustee, ICSB, and former special secretary, Government of India summed up and proposed a vote of thanks. The conference was the third of a four-part series.