India Enters the Race to Exploit New Ocean Territory Amid Growing Concerns Over China’s Threat

India applied for ISBA, Jamaica for rights to explore sea beds, not under India's Jurisdiction.

India Pursues Exploration Rights in Indian Ocean Amid Rising Tensions.

India in a bid to secure its interests in the Indian Ocean, India has filed an application with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) seeking rights to explore two expansive areas of the seabed, according to recent reports. The move comes amid growing concerns over China’s activities in the region and underscores India’s strategic ambitions in securing access to valuable marine resources.

The focal point of India’s application is the Afanasy Nikitin Seamount (AN Seamount), a geological feature located in the Central Indian Basin, approximately 3,000 kilometers away from the Indian coastline. Stretching over 400 kilometers in length and 150 kilometers in width, the AN Seamount rises from depths of about 4,800 meters to approximately 1,200 meters. It is known to be rich in deposits of cobalt, nickel, manganese, and copper, making it an attractive target for exploration and potential exploitation.

The application filed by India with the ISBA represents a strategic maneuver aimed at securing exploration rights in the AN Seamount and another undisclosed area in the Indian Ocean. While the specific details of the second area remain undisclosed, the AN Seamount has already been claimed by Sri Lanka under a separate legal framework.

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India’s decision to pursue exploration rights in the AN Seamount is believed to be partly driven by reports of Chinese vessels conducting reconnaissance activities in the region. An anonymous official, speaking to The Hindu, confirmed that India’s application is motivated by concerns over potential Chinese incursions into the area, highlighting the geopolitical tensions at play in the Indian Ocean.

The ISBA, headquartered in Jamaica, serves as the regulatory body responsible for overseeing mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond national jurisdiction. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries are required to obtain exploration licenses from the ISBA before engaging in any mineral extraction activities in these areas.

India’s application to the ISBA underscores its growing assertiveness in asserting its maritime interests and securing access to critical marine resources. With the Indian Ocean increasingly becoming a theater of strategic competition among major powers, including China, India’s move reflects its determination to safeguard its maritime interests and counter potential threats to its sovereignty and security.

The AN Seamount holds immense strategic and economic significance for India, given its abundant reserves of valuable minerals. Cobalt, in particular, is a crucial component in the production of high-tech electronics, renewable energy technologies, and electric vehicle batteries, making it a prized commodity in the global market.

India planning to take a mining expedition in the Cobalt-rich Crust of Indian Ocean, known as AN Seamount. (Image: NewsClick)

Securing exploration rights in the AN Seamount would not only bolster India’s resource security but also enhance its technological capabilities and economic prospects. However, India’s pursuit of exploration rights in the region is likely to face challenges, given the competing claims by Sri Lanka and the broader geopolitical dynamics at play in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian government’s decision to apply for exploration rights in the AN Seamount reflects its strategic calculus aimed at safeguarding its maritime interests and countering perceived threats in the region. As the competition for maritime resources intensifies in the Indian Ocean, India’s assertive posture underscores its commitment to defending its sovereignty and advancing its national interests in the maritime domain.

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