Malacca Strait security initiative: potential for Indian navy's participation in the evolving regional security environment
The trilateral coordinated anti-piracy ship patrols in the Strait of Malacca and of Singapore (Straits)—codenamed Operation MALSINDO—by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which commenced on July 20, 2004 to combat the menace of piracy have completed more than five successful years. The regional states have jointly developed a unique mechanism for ensuring safety and security in the Straits. The littorals, mindful of their sovereign sensitivities, have consistently declined offers of assistance from India and other user states in the security patrols. Meanwhile, the security situation in the Indian Ocean region is evolving fast, throwing up fresh challenges. The number of piracy attacks doubled in 2009 from a year ago, with the largest number of attacks taking place in the Indian Ocean. Not surprisingly, a majority of the G20 navies are currently deployed in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrols. In the prevailing scenario, is the Malacca Strait Security Initiative (MSSI) geared to address future security challenges, when the maritime resources of the littorals have been stretched too far? Is the issue of sovereign rights of the littorals being taken too far at the cost of jeopardising the security of world shipping? This article provides an overall assessment of the current safety and security initiatives in the Straits and examines the emerging trends and challenges in combating non-traditional threats in the Indian Ocean region. The author concludes that the evolving security scenario offers many opportunities for regional states to cooperate with the Indian Navy in ensuring security of the Straits.