The most recent drug bust by Kerala’s Narcotics Control Bureau, which involved a Pakistani individual, turned out to be the biggest in the country, at Rs 22,000 crore ($2.5 billion). The discovery of 2500 kg of crystal meth, or very pure methamphetamine, lends credence to claims made by the Church fifteen years ago that ISIS used Narco Jihad in Kerala to sedate young girls and brainwash, molest, and convert them. The Indian Ocean, being a major international waterway and a strategic maritime area is being used for narco-terrorism operations facilitated by Pakistan’s ISI.
The Indian government has increased maritime activities along the western coast, strengthened patrols, surveillance systems using cameras with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and radar systems in an effort to ensure the safety, security, and well-being of the area while upholding the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of maritime borders. It has also encouraged close coordination and cooperation among various law enforcement agencies, including the Coast Guard, Navy, a police force, and a border patrol. The efforts have paid off handsomely, with the Indian Navy and Coast Guards regularly apprehending drug dealers along the western coast, which includes coastal Kerala and Lakshwadeep. 220 kilogrammes of heroin were found off the Lakshadweep in May of last year. The heroin was linked to Pakistan, according to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). The largest opium-producing nations in the world are Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Myanmar, and the Indian Ocean region has long been used to transport illegal weapons and drugs. These activities have had wider geopolitical ramifications for South Asian security, with the region becoming a hotbed for terrorism and extremist ideology.
China has long been pursuing an approach known as the “String of Pearls” to encircle India and increase its sway. This plan calls for the construction of a network of naval bases and ports along the Indian Ocean, including ones in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Pakistan has emerged as the main beneficiary from this project among these countries, with China investing a sizeable $62 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The success of China’s “String of Pearls” project depends critically on the transit canals that run along the coasts of Kerala and Lakshadweep. These routes are essential for promoting connectivity and trade between China and its allies in the Indian Ocean region. Therefore, for China to achieve its goals in the region, it is essential to control and secure key transit waterways.
Similar to the Andaman Islands in the east, the Lakshadweep archipelago is strategically important to Indian marine interests. Lakshadweep, which consists of a group of 36 islands with a combined land size of 32 square kilometres, grants India access to vast territorial waters that extend for about 20,000 km and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that is roughly 400,000 square kilometres. An EEZ gives a nation exclusive rights to explore and use maritime resources, including those that can be used to generate wind and water energy. As both countries compete for supremacy and influence in the seas, tensions have increased between them in the context of the strategically important Indian Ocean region. The two Asian superpowers are vying for supremacy in this area, which has become a flashpoint in their rivalry.
Concerns have been raised about China’s claimed efforts to obstruct India’s development by aiding individuals and organizations that are opposed to various development projects. These initiatives include transforming Lakshadweep into a popular tourist destination, building the Vizhinjam port in Kerala, and shutting down the Vedanta copper mill in Tamil Nadu. Chinese spy ships and submarines have reportedly been seen frequently arriving at ports in Sri Lanka, and there have been allegations of an increase in Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean region. Concerns regarding potential spying on crucial Indian installations, such as the missile testing station at Kalam Islands and the space research center at Sriharikota, have been raised by these actions. The Indian Ocean region holds strategic significance, and any unauthorized surveillance or intelligence gathering activities by foreign entities can have serious implications.
In order to safeguard its interests, India should continue enhancing its marine surveillance capabilities, strengthen coastal security, and foster strong partnerships with regional and international allies like QUAD, ASEAN countries. Any potential security gaps or unauthorized operations in the region can be found and dealt with through joint patrols, routine intelligence sharing, and surveillance. India needs to keep a strong defensive posture in order to protect its essential infrastructure and national assets. By doing this, India can efficiently address any new security challenges while maintaining the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean region.