Maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region was on the table when India’s National Maritime Security Coordinator Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd) met Malaysian Navy Chief Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Bin Mohd Sany on Thursday.

The Malaysian Navy chief who is on a four-day visit to India commenced his visit on Wednesday (17th August) with a solemn wreath-laying Ceremony at the National War Memorial in New Delhi, where he paid homage to the Indian soldiers. Further, he was accorded a Guard of Honour at the majestic South Block lawns prior to the commencement of official engagements.

“Adm Mohd Reza called on Adm R Hari Kumar and discussed the progress of ongoing bilateral engagements in the maritime domain. He was also briefed on the broad range of Foreign Cooperation activities pursued by the Indian Navy,” Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The leaders identified several new avenues for further strengthening bilateral naval cooperation and also expressed commitment to their support to uphold the principle of collective responsibility for maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region,” the statement added.

Notably, the Malaysian Navy chief visited India at the invitation of Admiral R Hari Kumar, in order to further strengthen the military ties between both nations.

India-Malaysia Maritime Ties

Ranging from training to operations, the Indian Navy and Royal Malaysian Navy’s bilateral cooperation spans a wide canvas. Both Navies have recently concluded the Bilateral Exercise Samudra Laksamana on May 22 and the Navy to Navy Staff Talks on June 22, according to the statement.

During this visit, Adm Mohd Reza would also be interacting with other high-ranking officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS).

The Ambit of India’s First ‘National Maritime Security Coordinator

In February 2022, the government of India appointed Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd) as India’s first ‘National Maritime Security Coordinator’ (NMSC) to strengthen cooperation & bring effective coordination among various key central and state authorities dealing with the maritime domain – from the coast to the high seas.

The decision to appoint Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd) as the first NMSC can be seen as the fulfilment of long-pending reform, as part of India’s consistent efforts to boost its maritime security following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, which happened 14 years back.

The portfolio of NMSC will include the coordination among the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), security agencies involved in coastal and maritime security, and 13 coastal states and Union Territories.

It is noteworthy that in November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the appointment of the National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC) to interface between the civilian and military maritime domain.

To enhance security architecture in the maritime domain, the Coordinator will ensure effective coordination and cohesive policy-making among the central and state departments dealing with sea affairs from the coastline to the high seas.

The creation of the post of National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC) was a long-needed requirement for keeping the country’s sea safer. It is noteworthy that the Maritime Security Coordinator will directly report to the Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and will be the principal advisor to the government on the maritime security domain.

Importantly, a retired or serving Vice Admiral of the Navy (equivalent to a Lt-General in the Army) was considered to be appointed to the post.