China is not the middle kingdom It is the middle-aged kingdom Why is China doing what it is doing? Two recent articles highlight the dichotomy of the situation. The article ‘China Talks of US Decoupling and a Divided World’ highlights the views of Zhou Li, a high ranker in CCP. He cautions China to prepare for shrinking external demand, disruption of supply chains, coexistence with coronavirus over the long term, an outbreak of a global food crisis (in China?) and a resurgence of international terrorism (Tibetan and Uighur?). The Chinese economy is painted grim due to reduced exports, stalled production, blocked international logistics, raw materials lacking, and low productivity. Stable growth and job security are under high pressure. The other article talks of China’s Unconventional Levers of Power in World Affairs. The unconventional levers include building and exploitation of economic dependence, unfair practices, influence operations, capture of the elite, coercion through minimal force application but maximum reprisal promise, capture of international communication enterprises and creeping territorial expansion.
Things do not add up. A wannabe superpower with a grim economic outlook does not go around antagonising its neighbors without a reason. We need to look elsewhere.
Recent Chinese History (1899 onwards) has five clear cycles. Significant events of each cycle are listed.
The Chaotic Cycle (1899- 1948): Boxer Rebellion against the waning Manchu Qing Dynasty, Beiyang warlordism , Rise of Nationalists, End of imperialism, Proclamation of Republic of China , Rise of Communists, Japanese invasion, Long March by Mao (1934-35), Civil war, and Famine (10 million dead).
Mao’s Great Leap Cycle (1949-76): Annexation of Tibet, Great Leap Forward, Greatest Manmade famine (36-40 million dead), Sino Indian War, 10-years of Cultural Revolution, Nixon’s visit and Economic reforms.
Deng’s Consolidation Cycle (1977- 97): Open-door policy, Four Modernizations, One-child policy, Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square incident, Reversion of Hong Kong reverts, One country two systems, Third largest economy and Superpower aims by 2050.
The Cycle of Rise (1998- 2013): Second largest economy, Joining WTO, World’s biggest exporter, Space entry, ASAT capability, Beijing Olympics, and Weathering global financial crisis. Aging demographics surface.
The Overheated Expansion Cycle (2013 till date): Xi’s lifetime presidency, efficiency and anti-corruption drive, cooling economy, BRI and CPEC , Made in China 2025, Military expansion and modernisation, Trade war, South China Sea claims, Wuhan Virus outbreak, Hong Kong crisis, and Sino-Indian crisis.
Standout issues: Chinese sense of superiority is historical. It spurs the national ambition of attaining Superpower status. Deng set that to happen in 2050. The current cycle has seen extraordinary expansion of Chinese economic, military, and political power. The ‘China Dream’ of being a superpower was preponed to be achieved by 2030. Prima facie it seems over ambitious. Till one sees the demographics. Also, the popular thinking that China has a long-term strategic view of things is a myth not borne by its history. The past century has been cycles of selfhumiliation, internal strife, and revisionism where the state has promised prosperity and nationalism for surrender of personal liberties.
China’s large population, is aging fastest due to falling birth rates and rising life expectancy (see graph). Chinese birth rates are the lowest for 70 years despite easing the one-child policy. China has approximately 24 million marriageable males without brides. It explains bride trafficking from Pakistan! Its population is predicted to peak at 1.4 billion. Working hands and taxpayers are decreasing. Overall dependency is increasing. A smaller working-age population must support a bigger, retired population. Social security net is minimal in China. Every working Chinese must support two parents and four grandparents. Commonly known as the 4-2-1 phenomenon. China’s economic growth was based on labor-intensive manufacturing . The drop in labor force, increases labor costs, makes goods less competitive.
Race against time
The Middle-Aged Kingdom will get old before it gets rich. Beyond 2030, China’s economic growth faces a cap, when the overall dependency ratio starts spiking. If China must be a superpower, it must get rich before it becomes old and decline sets in. It is a race against time to 2030.
The ‘get rich before old scheme’ has four drivers. One, productivity-enhancing reforms to snare the rich and lazy as well as the poor and unable. Create inalienable dependence through a data driven manufacturing web. Two, the BRI and CPEC; which debt trap poorer countries. A slumlord mentality to garner money and power at the bottom of the heap. Three, the ‘Made in China 2025 Plan’, which envisages transformation of a low end ‘Made in China’ label to the high end ‘Create in China’ symbol. Ten core areas were targeted for technological ascendancy and high value returns. Huawei was part of this drive. Four, build a world class military to protect its interests and sort out rivals. The first driver is the basic one. The others rest on that. Incidentally the only two big economies with better demographics are the US and India. They are China’s chief threats! Logical so far?
Everything was going great. Purring smoothly on track barring the small blip of a ‘Trade War’. Till the Wuhan Virus hit everyone for a six.
Enter the virus:
China realized the lethality of Wuhan Virus by midJanuary. China was being setback irretrievably. On 25 January they curtailed internal travel. Something was planned when Xi Jinping was out of public view for about ten days. They ensured International travel continued to carry the Virus out; to flatten the field.
When global supply chains were disrupted, everyone realised that China had surreptitiously created dangerous dependencies. Clamor for decoupling commenced. As the virus spread, the BRI came to a grinding halt. ‘Made in China 2025’ was endangered by an anti-Huawei campaign. Plan Superpower was being broadsided by the Virus.
By the third week of Apr there were calls for hard decoupling. India and ASEAN were at the forefront to reap the relocation dividend. How to save a falling economy? Plan 1: Gobble up attractive assets affected by the global stock market crash. That was resisted internationally. Plan 2: Undermine decoupling. Enable relocation through Chinese investment and tutelage. Only countries like Bangladesh agreed. India was vying for Global Leadership also. Hence Plan 3: India and ASEAN had to be forced into submission to re-establish global dependency on China. Isolation would then automatically end. India, a prime competitor, had to be dealt militarily. Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and others needed different levers. The key: derail relocation/ decoupling through coercive control taking advantage of a weakening US and a divided Europe. The BRI and Made in China 2025 would eventually recover. The ‘Superpower 2030’ plan would go through with some delay.
However any conflict with India could escalate and slow down the economy unacceptably. Hence the Chinese aggression had to be low key, calibrated, but belligerent to assert strategic control politically and economically. The hallmark of the current Sino Indian standoffs is that even till date Chinese deployments are not tactical. All they have tried is to demonstrate force, manufacture victory, talk peace, and re-establish economic control so that India cannot rise. Once that was achieved, the rest would follow suit. In this context, China’s Unconventional Levers of Power in World Affairs makes immense sense. If Galwan action had gone their way, China’s aim would have been achieved. However that was not to be. India stood up and inflicted a bloody nose. China has realised that it has miscalculated. Its superpower ambitions are at stake. It started talking about peace.
The old man’s situation
An isolated China is in a two-front situation with its biggest competitors. PLA is negotiating with the Indian Army after the bruising it received at Galwan. Substantial PLA forces will be tied down till status quo ante is achieved. Three US carrier fleets pivoting around Taiwan in the South China Sea are an overmatch for PLAN. The US is determined to not let China claim the South China Sea as its own. Other nations are aligning to this. Floods in central China, periodic surfacing of the Wuhan Virus, Swine flu and Bubonic plague outbreaks are adding to economic and social problems. Hong Kong’s situation is still volatile. Banning of apps by India and Huawei’s ouster from the UK and USA will have a wider effect on the Chinese information game. Bank runs are surfacing. Bank withdrawals are being limited. Combine it with Zhou Li’s views on economics — jobs, production, exports, logistics, weak consumption. Problems galore.
Back to the virus. It is still raging. As the virus continues some decoupling is automatically happening. People’s habits are changing. In addition, big players like Apple and Microsoft are gravitating towards India. Others will follow. It may appear that other countries are highly infected by the virus and China is better off. However other countries and communities have started coexisting with the virus better. The bulk of the Chinese population is still not affected. Chinese strict lockdowns just kick the can down the road. The problem is still ahead.
In May, Xi Jinping exhorted China to be prepared for the worst-scenarios and PLA to prepare for war. The ‘Chinese Century’ and superpower status by 2030 is receding. This was what he had in mind. Decline of an aging China will be accelerated by lack of international trust. Xi Jinping knows this. That is why he has now written to Global CEOs to say that fundamentals of China’s long term growth will not change. Xi Jinping has not given up on his dream. His last gambit?
Postulates for India
If China declines India must rise. So it is in India’s interests that an aging China declines. Prepare and act accordingly. The odd finger at Pangong Tso is irrelevant. Think beyond that.
India rises despite setbacks and chaos. This is its history. Virus, China, Pakistan, Floods, Earthquakes et al, affect India but cannot stop it. India underestimates its greatest strengths — diversity, vitality, soft power, democracy, assimilation, and trust. India has the skill set to rise. We the people along with the government must capitalise on this.
The Indian Armed Force is strong enough to hold China at bay to let India grow. If they are strengthened, India will grow faster. Respond accordingly.
Dealing with Dragon
While Chinese comprehensive national power is much greater than India’s, it is not overwhelming. On the contrary, India has the power to derail the MiddleAged Kingdom. The following needs to be strategically conveyed and executed.
Altering the status of LAC unilaterally by China is sine qua non. We should not step back. China cannot afford war and is not prepared for it.
1. Do not give any trade concessions to China to appease it. Do not be in a hurry. Do not buckle.
2. Dry out Chinese seepage into our society. Deny data and information to China.
3. Ensure Aatmanirbharta and relocation through wise policy and implementation.
4. Develop international democratic alliances to counter authoritarianism and expansionism.
5. Support democratic movements in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.
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CADETS OF NCC DIRECTORATE GUJARAT TO BE DEPLOYED AT SURAT IN SUPPORT OF THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FOR COMBATING COVID-19 AS PART OF EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN
As the nation is going through the second surge in Covid-19, NCC Cadets of Gujarat Directorate have volunteered to support Civil administration in various activities as part of the Exercise Yogdan II. In response to the requisition from DM Surat, 56 highly motivated Cadets (both boy Cadets and girl Cadets) have volunteered to provide relief efforts and assist in functioning of agencies employed in Covid-19 at Surat. More Cadets of Gujarat Directorate are likely to volunteer as the Exercise Yogdan II commences. Only Senior Division Boys and Senior Wing Girl Cadets of Gujarat Directorate above the age of 18, are being deployed to support the administration as part of NCC Exercise Yogdan II. All the Gujarat Directorate Cadets deployed would be Senior Volunteer Cadets and with proper Covid safety precautions and adequate care. The Cadets have undergone a thorough training on DOs and Dont’s on Covid Protocols before being deployed.
In addition, on announcement of Tika Utsav by the PM , the Cadets of Gujarat Directorate actively participated in spreading awareness about the necessity of getting Vaccinated and following Covid appropriate behaviour, through door to door interaction and circulating a large number of videos and messages on social media. The Directorate General NCC at Delhi has also made provisions to insure the volunteer Cadets adequately. DG NCC at Delhi has been actively involved and focussed in giving the necessary permission for the employment of cadets. Major General Arvind Kapoor ADG, NCC Directorate Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu informed that last year during Exercise NCC Yogdan I, Cadets of NCC Directorate Gujarat were deployed in maximum numbers which was highly appreciated by the dignitaries and the people of Gujarat. He further assured that all safety precautions related to Covid -19 will be ensured for the Cadets and staff of Gujarat Directorate employed in Exercise NCC Yogdan II. He also complimented the parents to have come forward and given their consent for the Cadets to be deployed.
AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES THE INDO-PACIFIC OCEANS INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA
Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. “This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, High Commission O’Farrell said. “Through this program, we are seeking new proposals on how Australia, India and other regional partners can advance our shared maritime objectives”, he added.
The AIIPOIP grants program will help deliver practical outcomes under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit in November 2019. “Australia is proud to be co-leading with India the marine ecology pillar of the IPOI”, High Commissioner O’Farrell said. The first phase of this multi-year grant program will encourage proposals from Australian and Indian stakeholders to share expertise and resources, complementing the work under existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Pacific Islands Forum. AIIPOIP is an outcome of the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, signed by Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in June 2020, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Agreement.
PROTESTS BY TEHREEK-E-LABBAIK & ONGOING SITUATION IN PAKISTAN
Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.
TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.
In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.
On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.
Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.
There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.
There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.
INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE
New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.
RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES
The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.
Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.
DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.
HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI
The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.
India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.
Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.
Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.
With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.
Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.
Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.
The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.
Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.
Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History
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