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Surge of non-state actors demands firm action: Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said that increased militarisation and a recent surge of non-state actors were key maritime challenges that need to be tackled.

Speaking at the Goa Maritime Conference, Sitharaman also highlighted increased vulnerability of coastal populations to natural disasters as a matter of concern, saying it was critical to finds ways and means to adequately handle such circumstances.

She said increased militarisation had manifested into a “steady increase in the numbers of warships operating” in the Indian Ocean region.

“We have also witnessed extra-regional nations maintain a near permanent presence within the region — on one pretext or the other,” Sitharaman said.

“These countries, which are extra-regional, are creating naval outposts as well as dual use infrastructure in the region. This sort of militarisation increases the complexities for countries of this region.”

The Defence Minister said while non-state actors have been players in maritime zones since times immemorial but the current surge and the support which they received from “certain states” has made firm action imperative.

“The concept of non-state actors is again something which is not new. Countries have been dealing with this issue, both over land and at sea, since time immemorial. However the recent surge in the number of non-state actors juxtaposed with the support they enjoy from certain states, their enhanced reach, as well as access to resources, has brought the issue to the forefront and demands firm action.”

Highlighting the increased vulnerability of coastal populations in India to natural disasters, Sitharaman said: “All our coastal regions are densely populated and suffer immense damage to life as well as property in the event of major natural calamities.

“Yet, in the aftermath of natural disasters, the only way to gain access and to provide succour to our people is from the sea. It is therefore very important that we create structures that can cater to such circumstances.”