A nation that has 7500 km long coastline and opens up in the crucial area of Indian Ocean is bound to have good sea trade. India’s special geographical position enabled it to set up trade links with Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia since ancient times.
India aims to regain its dominance in the Indian Ocean region as well as in sea trade. The recent decisions of the government are aligned with that objective.
Change in Outlook
Since Independence, the outlook of governments in India was continental. It means their imagination was limited to landmass and not to the seas. This made other nations increase their trade over the seas while India lagged behind.
This was important because trade through waterway is the cheapest as compared to land or air trade. One can carry tons of cargo at cheaper rates via seas. This is the reason why all crucial products of the world- crude oil, chemicals, perishable products, engineering goods- are traded through sea routes.
The monumental failure of Congress governments since 1947 can be seen from this example. Oil is the most crucial commodity traded today. The busiest route of trade is from Middle East, where oil is extracted towards Southeast Asia and towards China through the Malacca Strait. This route passes through Indian Ocean where India has its coastline. But India’s reluctance to develop its ports through the Congress era made other nations develop their ports and profit from the oil trade. Colombo in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Port Klang in Malaysia and other ports grew at the expense of Indian ports.
The Narendra Modi led government through its ambitious Sagarmala program is giving the importance to the oceans they deserve. This can be seen from the new ports they are developing.
New Port at Vadhavan
Located north of Mumbai near Dahanu, this port will be the 17th largest port in the world and serve as a major container port on the West coast. It will reduce the burden on JNPT and Mundra ports. Given its 20-meter draft, it can handle heavy containers easily.
It can host trade through the Middle East and can serve as a port for the hinterlands of north Maharashtra, south Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Geopolitics Through Vizhinjam
Vizhinjam port is located in southern part of Kerala. Being developed with private sector help, this port can serve as a big stopover destination for containers travelling through the Indian Ocean.
Being a multipurpose project, this port will serve as a direct challenge to the prominence of Colombo port of Sri Lanka. It will thus be a geopolitical victory as it will secure India’s dominance in Indian Ocean region and help counter China’s Maritime Silk Route
The port would be completed by the end of 2020.
Proposals for Colachel and Nicobar
Everybody knows Kanniyakumari due to Swami Vivekananda. But the region around Colachel is being proposed as a new deep sea port with an investment of about Rs 27000 crore. The procedures are being completed and land is being allotted. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been released for the port.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located in such strategic location in the Bay of Bengal. It is equidistant from Indian coast and coast of Sumatra-Java and Malaysia. The Nicobar Islands have a natural depth for development of ports. A transshipment port is proposed with an investment of $1 billion which will develop it as a stopover port for big containers.
With the commencement of these port, India’s geostrategic position in the Indian Ocean region will get a boost. It will also lead to increase in the port led trade which will lead to increased earnings through exports.