Stable Seas: Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal

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The Bay of Bengal, the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, is of great political, economic and cultural importance to its littoral countries Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia. With maritime trade, fishing, and tourism as the most significant economic activities of the region, it is exposed to several maritime security issues such as illicit trade, piracy, armed robbery, and illegal fishing.

Jay Benson’s report “Stable Seas: Bay of Bengal” analyses the maritime security and governance challenges in the Bay of Bengal across nine issue areas, through the lens of a balance of power, connectivity, and integration and their overall impact on regional stability. How can the relationship between the Bay of Bengal nations be defined and how does it affect regional stability? Given the political instability and low infrastructure building capacity among these nations, how can they come together and work with regional and international players? Is there an inherent tension in the Bay of Bengal between geopolitics and geoeconomics? Is there a strain on the blue economy front between regional prosperity and sustainability? How critical is the quad for the region and how can it contribute to its security and stability? Given China’s increased activity in the region, how can India safeguard its strategic interests and ensure economic development? If the nations in the region look up to external actors to build up external capabilities, how will it impact India? Is the capacity to deal with the illicit arms trade and maritime crimes going to be limited in the post-COVID era? Can regional organisations like ASEAN and SAARC play a role in better positioning India and the region to cooperate in the Bay of Bengal? Are there any other feasible alternatives to the BIMSTEC that can contribute to security in the region?

Abhijit Singh, Senior Fellow and Head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at ORF, brings together a panel of Jay Benson, Project Manager of One Earth Future’s (OEF) Stable Seas program in the Indo-Pacific region, Commodore (Retd.) Anil Jai Singh, Vice President of the Indian Maritime Foundation, and Pooja Bhatt, Research Associate at Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) to explore the progress being made across the non-traditional security issues in the Bay of Bengal in the context of the report, discuss other areas of prioritisation and potential alternatives to existing information collection procedures, security initiatives for overall security and stability of the region.

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