Underwater Domain Awareness Framework Addresses G7 Action Points
The G7 ensured progress on the following five action points: a sustainable planet, economic stability and transformation, healthy lives, investing in a better future and stronger together.
Pune: The 48th G7 Summit was held June 26-28 at Schloss Elmau, Krün, Bavarian Alps, Germany. The meeting holds even greater significance for India and the world, amid the positive hypes and negative hopes, set by national constituencies and global narrative peddlers. The unipolar world order is challenged by multipolar geopolitical and geostrategic realities. The West represented by the G7 is continually sidelined, in terms of determining the dominant global narrative. Desperate attempts by the G7 to create anti-Russian sentiment after the invasion of Ukraine and turn this into a strategic isolation of Russia from the global network have failed. Sanctions and other political and economic instruments aimed at isolating Russia have proven counterproductive. At first glance, the general agenda of the current summit was Russia, climate and technology.
India seems to be in an enviable position. The rise of the dragon and its belligerence in pursuit of its strategic interest in recent times have been of great concern to the West. In the current geostrategic scenario, India, with its solid democratic structure, is a prudent geopolitical investment for any world power. No one can afford to ignore India on any front. India has also been much more assertive in pursuing its strategic interests, even at the cost of resisting geopolitical pressures from the West. The German G7 Presidency has invited India as well as other nations such as Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to the summit. India must play an important role in the ongoing global power game, to ensure that it is relevant in the changing world order. Multi-level interactions of G2G (government to government), C2C (business to business) and P2P (person to person) must intensify and bring more value to the national constituency as well as bilateral partners. Bilateral interactions with each of the G7 countries have taken on special significance as each of the G7 countries seeks to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India as all of them view India as a destination for ‘investment.
The geostrategic scenario in the Indo-Pacific and particularly in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) has raised the issue of security for India. The G7 also competes with itself to sell military hardware to India. India must strike a balance between security and growth. The Prime Minister announced the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision for India in 2015. The volatile IOR and the Indo-Pacific have become the global theater for strategic interaction and every world power wants to have a strategic vision. put in this cake. The G7 has also engaged in the Indo-Pacific and made important announcements to strengthen its strategic presence in the region.
The G7 is committed to a fair world order and has secured progress on the following five action points: a sustainable planet, economic stability and transformation, healthy lives, investing in a better future and stronger together.
If we look at the five action points, governance becomes the key to achieving the commitment to an equitable world order. The governance mechanism needs better situational or domain awareness. Digital transformation is therefore the essential requirement. Transparency is at the core, and given the strategic shift towards the Indo-Pacific maritime space, maritime domain awareness (MDA) is of importance. Conventional MDA remained safety-focused and limited to the surface. The underwater domain, which holds more than 70% of the entire maritime area, requires much greater attention. The Undersea Domain Awareness (UDA) framework proposed by the Maritime Research Center (MRC) has significant relevance to building the digital ocean and could comprehensively address the needs of all four stakeholders. Stakeholders include security, blue economy, environmental and disaster management, and science and technology. The illustration shows the UDA framework. The UDA framework addresses policy and technology intervention, as well as acoustic capacity and capacity building.
The UDA framework comprehensively addresses the five action points set out for the G7, as listed here:
1. A sustainable planet: the blue ocean with more than 70% of land surface and an equally important depth plays a major role in climate control, environmental sustainability and the protection of biodiversity. The UDA framework through the digital construction of the ocean will enable a real-time appreciation of ground realities and facilitate better management of sustainability issues. The underwater domain is unregulated due to a lack of transparency leading to poor governance mechanisms.
2. Economic stability and transformation: The blue economy has unimaginable potential for economic growth and prosperity across multiple sectors. The digital transformation of the ocean supported by the UDA framework will ensure a good governance model to manage the sustainable push of the blue economy. Growing maritime activities for economic growth and prosperity must be managed with an effective and nuanced regulatory mechanism. Impoverished nations in tropical coastal waters must be supported with improved digital ocean building supported by science and technology tools to accelerate the realization of blue economic growth potential.
3. Healthy Lives: Climate change and biodiversity have a deep connection to global health management. Poor management of water quality and poor management of water resources have a direct impact on the health of the poor and marginalized. The UDA Framework for Building the Digital Ocean is the most critical pillar for managing the problem of climate change as well as water quality and resource management for better global health.
4. Investing in a better future: The future of the world lies in blue oceans and freshwater systems. If we do not ensure that these water bodies are well managed, we will have no future. The infrastructure required and the know-how desired for an improved UDA is unimaginable. Thus, the UDA framework proposed by the MRC, which encourages pooling of resources and synergy of efforts between stakeholders and policy makers, is the most effective. Transparency and good governance will enable financial institutions to allocate better mechanisms to support such projects and also fund marginalized coastal communities. Blue bonds and many other instruments can give a big boost to the blue economic initiative.
5. Stronger together: The core concept of the UDA framework is the pooling of resources and the synergy of efforts. The global community will benefit from collaboration and shared investments in security and growth, as envisioned in the UDA framework. Such joint ownership of interests in the future will minimize competition and confrontation in the future. Climate change and environmental sustainability issues are extremely critical for future generations and therefore shared investment is a great idea.
The just-concluded G7 meeting under the German presidency announced the launch of a global infrastructure and investment partnership to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given the strategic relevance of the Indo-Pacific region and the growing economic rise of nations in the littoral tropical waters, it is important to recognize the framework of the UDA. Port infrastructure in tropical nearshore waters requires significant sediment management efforts to ensure the seaworthiness of vessels. If not well managed, ports in the tropical region could become unsustainable, so the UDA framework becomes essential for these new initiatives. With the commitment to a sustainable blue economy and other maritime activities, including shipping, the management of underwater radiated noise (URN) is gaining prominence. The management of URNs will bring another new dimension to the sustainable maritime basket, within the framework of the MARPOL convention. Acoustic habitat degradation is a major concern with the unregulated increase in shipping. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has taken notice of the URN issue, but how quickly such an issue needs to be taken to war footing.
The international community places great trust in the United Nations as a forum for interaction and policy formulation on global issues. The UN declared it the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are another set of instruments to focus on the impact of climate change, biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability, while pursuing growth. SDG-14 in particular and many others have a significant need to advance the UDA framework. Other forums like G7, G-20, IORA, BIMSTEC, BRICS, NAFTA, ASEAN and many more can include UDA framework in their agenda. Establishing a Center of Excellence (CoE) on the UDA Framework within several of these groupings will ensure that the diversity of regions and applications is catered for. The unique structure of the CoE includes a multidisciplinary research center, which will allow understanding the local realities specific to the site. A university center to provide a formal academic program according to the accepted framework in order to generate a pool of human resources for the future. A skills center to impart job-specific skills to the masses. An incubation center to encourage innovation across sectors and applications to build on local site specific requirements. Last but not least is the Policy Center which will formulate the strategy and tactical aspects to drive an ambitious vision like this.
Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das is the founder and director of the Maritime Research Center (MRC), Pune.