Christian Bueger

India’s new sea power. Reflections from Milan 2024

India’s role in global politics is evolving, and the country is increasingly emerging as an international leader. This also applies to global ocean politics and naval affairs. India is a major sea power, and its navy increasingly acts as the guardian for the Indian Ocean, protecting trade and supporting its neighbors.   

Experiencing Sea Power in Practice

In February, I had the opportunity to experience India’s new sea power in practice. The Indian navy invited me to give the opening talk at their bi-annual multinational naval exercise, called Milan. Milan is a Hindu word that can be roughly translated into English as referring to ‘meeting’, ‘gathering’ or ‘union’. Over 50 states participated in Milan. Held in the city of Visakhapatnam, the home of the navy’s Eastern Command, the event included a seminar, an exhibition, a city parade, and an exercise at sea.   

Group Picture of participants in the maritime seminar of Milan 2024

Sea Power Today

Sea power is often equated with military capabilities, measured in numbers of ships, staff, or high-end technology, with the aircraft carrier often assuming the role as the main status symbol, given only seven nations possess that asset. Milan put some of the military strength of India’s navy on display, with the country’s two aircraft carriers along with a broad range of other assets — fighter planes, helicopters, special forces — being presented to the public.

Yet, contemporary sea power means more than counting and comparing military capabilities. Milan documented at least three forms of contemporary sea power: convening power, innovation, and responsibility.

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Presentation on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific

What are the costs and benefits of thinking in terms of an Indo-Pacific region? Why do certain actors advocate to strategize in those terms? On June the 3rd and 4th I had the pleasure to attend a conference in Paris that discussed these questions. The conference was organised jointly by IRSEM, Science Po, the University of Cambridge and GIGA.

My own presentation was titled “More than a sum of its parts? Networked maritime security and the fabrication of the Indo-Pacific”. In the presentation I drew attention to the scalar politics of the Indo-Pacific pointing in particular to the political effects the fabrication of the Indo-Pacific region has in terms of how it limits agency to states with blue water naval capacities, and how it undermines regional cooperation. Contact me if you are interested in the full presentation.

Maritime Security Section @ EISA

Maritime Security Studies is a thriving field of research that not only addresses pressing political issues, but entails a fascinating set of scholarly questions, concerning territory, knowledge, sovereignty and international cooperation. Drawing on the success of earlier meetings (workshops in Cardiff and Geneva, and a section at the 2014 WISC conference in Frankfurt), maritime security scholars from across Europe met in the frame of the 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations organized by the European International Studies Association. In six panels and one roundtable we discussed from the 23. to 26.9 the rise of maritime security strategies, challenges within distinct regions, and maritime threats such as illegal migration, piracy and boundary disputes. At the roundtable we discussed the need for maritime security studies to go into two directions: To theorize more, but to recognize that good theory is always anchored in practical problems and practice. We were particularly delighted to welcome Michel Soula from NATO headquarters for the section. A full overview of the program is available here.

APSA Meeting in San Francisco

apsaFrom the 2nd to the 6th of September I will be attending the annual conference of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco. I will be a participant on two panels. I will be discussing fieldwork methods in the frame of “The Methods Cafe” (Thu, September 3, 12:15 to 1:45pm, Nikko, Ballroom II) as well as presenting on a roundtable “Author Meets Critics: “A Theory of Contestation” by Antje Wiener” (Sun, September 6, 8:00 to 9:45am, Parc 55, Fillmore).

BISA conference in London

BISAFrom the 17th to the 19th I attended the 40th conference of the British International Studies Association. With 700 participants it was the largest BISA conference so far. And with a location right next to Tower Bridge perhaps the one with the nicest view from the conference facilities. At the conference I presented at two roundtables which focused on the state of Security Studies and the rationale of the new European Journal of International Security (find a summary of the roundtables at the EJIS website here). In addition I also participated in a roundtable on Methods and Critique. Overall it was good to see a thriving British IR community in action. The discussion on methods and methodology continues to be one of the major themes the discipline is currently discussing, which is a move into the direction. What kind of social science IR and its many subcommunities wants to be is after all crucial a question of how it wants to combine theory and empirics and what types of empirical experiences enrich the formulation of theory and concepts.