General Studies Paper 1 (World Geography): Economic importance of Indian Ocean region

Indian Ocean

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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1(World Geography)


Discuss the economic importance of Indian ocean region for India.(250 words)



Indian occupies a central and strategic location in the Indian Ocean area. Its national and economic interests are inseparably linked up with Indian Ocean. Hence to keep the Indian Ocean as a zone of Peace free from superpower rivalry and increasing cooperation among littoral countries in the region has always been India’s foreign Policy’s goal for example Look East policy, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, BIMSTECK and Ganga-Mekong Cooperation etc.



The Economic importance of Indian ocean for India includes:

Natural resources.

The Indian Ocean is rich in natural resources. The Indian Ocean contains more than two-thirds of the world’s oil resources, 60 per cent of uranium, 40 per cent of gold, and 98 per cent of the world’s supply of diamonds. If the oil deposits of the African coast and Indonesia are added, the oil wealth of the Indian Ocean region may work out to be around three-fourths of the world aggregate.

  • Oil and Natural Gas: India has undertaken a massive offshore oil development programme through its state company, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC).
    • With the discovery of the hydrocarbons in 197 4 at Bombay High, a large area located 70-120 miles north-west of Bombay, India’s off-shore oil production began to surge forward.
    • From zero oil production in 1975-76, it rose to an estimated 20.8 million tons in 1985- 86, providing almost two-thirds of the total crude oil production in the country.
  • India imports 70 % of its oil requirements, 4000 tankers come to Indian ports annually and almost 95 % of Indian trade moves by sea. Forty per cent of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin.
  • Energy security and resources are absolutely critical. The Indian Ocean Region is immensely rich in that.
  • 28 million barrels per day—or nearly 80 per cent of India’s crude oil requirement—is imported by sea via the Indian Ocean. Taking into account India’s offshore oil production and petroleum exports, India’s sea dependence for oil is about 93 per cent, according to the Indian Navy.
  • India is also the fourth-largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG),with about 45 per cent coming by sea.
  • Minerals:
    • Mineral resources with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed.
    • Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper.
    • The offshore presence of calcareous deposits suitable for chemical and cement industries have been reported from the Andaman and Lakshadweep zones.
    • Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.
    • In 2014, the International Seabed Authorityissued licenses for the Indian Ocean ridge, opening up new opportunities for deep seabed mining. This region is estimated to have massive reserves of manganese, as well as cobalt, nickel, and copper, all of which are scarce on Indian soil.
    • Placer Deposits– Vitally important, thorium resources in placer sands of Malabar coast are a promise to Nuclear Energy security. Similarly Placers of Thailand, Indo-China and Australia are source of precious heavy metals critically important for Electronics and semi conductors industry.
  • Agriculture:
    • The Indian Ocean region is predominantly an agricultural zone Jute and rubber are two other major products of the Indian Ocean region exported to the West.
    • One-fifth of the world’s cultivable land lies in this area producing rich crops of wheat, rice, cotton, tea and coffee.
  • Trade and Commerce by ocean route :
    • It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.
    • Today, almost 90,000 vessels in the world’s commercial fleet transport 9.84 billion tonnes per year. This represents an almost four-fold increase in the volume of commercial shipping since 1970.
    • India has vital economic interests in African countries. She has trade relations with the Indian Ocean littoral countries. The Indian exports to African countries comprise tea (Sudan), cotton textiles, steel machinery (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda), engineering goods (mainly to Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Sudan and, to lesser degree, to Ethiopia. and Somalia).
    • In this region, Indian imports mainly comprise copper (from Zambia), raw cashew nuts (from Tanzania and Mozambique), raw cotton (from Sudan), spices (from Tanzania), gram and pulses (from Kenya and Tanzania), lead (from Zambia), zinc (from Tanzania and Zambia).
    • India has also developed trade relationship with West Indian Ocean islands, mainly Mauritius, Seychelles and Malagasy Republic.
    • The main items of Indian exports to Mauritius animal products, cotton, man-made staple fibres, articles of iron or steel, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, nuclear reactor, boilers, machinery etc., railway or tramway locomotives, rolling stock and vehicles.
    • The Indian Ocean has vital sea lanes of communication crisscrossing it and which feeds Asia’s largest economies. Around 80 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil tradepasses through the choke points of this ocean and therefore it literally connects the east to the west with 40 percent passing through the Strait of Hormuz, 35 percent through the Strait of Malacca and 8 percent through the Bab el-Mandab Strait.
    • The Ocean’s vast drainage basin is important in its own right, home to some two billion people. This creates opportunities, especially given the high rates of economic growth around the Indian Ocean rim, including in India, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, and Eastern and Southern Africa.
    • 95 per cent of India’s trade by volume and 68 per cent of trade by valuecome via the Indian Ocean.
    • Presence of 13 major ports and over 200 minor ports provide avenues for exports of Indian goods to world.
  • Fishing and Aquaculture:
    • Indian Ocean is the only fishing ground for coastal fisherman is India. Due to huge marine recourses it spreads prosperity in coastal plains of India
      • Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15 per cent of the world’s total.
      • Aquaculture in the region has also grown 12-fold since 1980. Although global fishing is reaching its natural limitations, the Indian Ocean may be able to sustain increases in production.
      • The largely unregulated overexploitation of its fishery resources. The consequences of over fishing, which is actually largely a result of activity by countries outside the region, could eventually have serious consequences for littoral states that depend heavily on maritime resources to feed their populations and also provide valuable export revenues.
      • India captured 4.1 million tonnes of fish in 2008, placing it sixth in the world and its fishing and aquaculture industries employ some 14 million people.
      • A large trawling ground of deep water lobsters has been discovered beyond the 50 meters depth between Quilon and Cochin.
      • Fisheries and aquaculture industries are also a major source of exports. India’s maritime exports grew 55 timesin volume between 1962 and 2012 and fisheries exports now account for Rs. 16,600 crore or about $2.5 billion.
  • Tourism:
    • Coral atolls in Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands attract many tourists from India as well as abroad. This helps the livelihood of many islanders.



Geographical situation provides India the unique locational advantages in the Indian Ocean. large continental shelf and the vast exclusive economic zone full of resources provide her opportunity to be a great maritime power of this region. The Indian Ocean region has great economic significance to India. More than 90 per cent of foreign trade of India moves through the Indian Ocean. India depends for more than 60 per cent of her 156 energy needs (oil) on the Persian Gulf region. Her necessary supplies of minerals like copper, zinc, lead, nickel, tin and aluminium come from this region. She also depends on this region for her vital needs of food, chemicals and fertilizers. The Indian Ocean region provides key market to the Indian goods and gives India ample opportunities for executing the turn-key jobs and joint ventures. The Indian Ocean is definitely a key to the security, prosperity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and, in fact, the very survival of India. From every angle, the Indian Ocean is a .life-line for India. The security threats posed by State and non-state actors are impeding the progress. The Government initiatives like SAGAR, IORA, Sagarmala etc. should ensure that the fruits of Blue Economy is well reaped. of the Navy must receive highest consideration on the part of the Government of India.


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