Sub theme 3

Gunboat Diplomacy – Sea Power for Coercion
‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ refers to a foreign policy that relies on naval force or threat of naval force by a powerful country to coerce a less powerful nation to submit to its demand. To some extent the relics of such diplomatic exercises had existed between empires and kingdom in the past. During the medieval period, it was widely used by Western countries to conquer, and subsequently colonize, the rest of the world. The decision of the United States to deploy the USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean during Bangladesh Liberation war as a coercive tool to intimidate India, is an example of Gunboat Diplomacy leveraging sea power for coercion.

In the modern diplomatic lexicon, the concept can be construed as an extension of the policy of ‘stick and carrot,’ extensively used by powerful countries to coerce other countries and bending governments to their will by the use of powerful navy. Though, coercion may not always be the preferred option in international relations, it becomes inevitable when the national interest of a sovereign State is at stake. In addition, the globalization of society and resultant surge in the transnational economic activities requires a robust maritime force that would ensure the security of the international trade and commerce, bulk of which is carried through seas. The role of the US Navy in heading off Chinese threats to Taiwan in the South China Sea was a clear example of modern Gunboat Diplomacy. Further, Gunboat Diplomacy empower the nations to land troops anywhere in the world along a shore line for rapid reaction abroad. Besides signalling an imminent attack, the warships can also be a platform for negotiations for peaceful settlement.

The evolving multipolar world order will bring about more avenues for the recurrent exercise of Gunboat Diplomacy as it is currently happening in the South China Sea. Further, China’s recent covert maritime threats to stifle India from military intervention in the Maldives indicate that India is severely hampered in exercise of Gunboat Diplomacy in the face of a strong adversary. In the light of growing maritime disputes across the globe, can Gunboat Diplomacy be seen as an assured strategy for a nation in safeguarding its maritime interest? Further, it would be worth having a discourse on whether mere possession of sea power, enable nations to exercise Gunboat Diplomacy effectively? Papers are solicited on the example of Gunboat Diplomacy and its relevance in the current day and age.