On 29th and 30th November 2023, the ICRC and Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) organized a symposium on maritime security operations and humanitarian considerations. The symposium brought together experts and panellists from India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; the Ministry of Defence of Austria, as well as from ICRC Bangkok and Delhi to discuss the challenges and opportunities of balancing maritime security with humanitarian considerations. About 100 participants attended the event, including officers from the Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy, National Academy of Coastal Policing (NACP), Border Security Force (BSF), Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), academicians, and students.

During his welcome address, Professor (Dr.) Bimal N. Patel, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor of RRU and Member of the United Nations International Law Commission, lauded the three-year partnership with ICRC. Following this, the Chief Guest, Hon’ble Justice Ravindra Bhat (Retd. ), Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, gave a speech.

This was followed by an address from the Distinguished Guest of Honor, Kedir Awol Omar, Head of the Regional Delegation for India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, who said, “We are thankful to our partner, the RRU, for organizing much-needed discussions by experts in the region to deliberate upon the humanitarian consequences arising due to possibility of conflict at sea. I am convinced that these discussions give us an opportunity to come to a common understanding of the humanitarian challenges and the attempt to discuss mitigation measures, which in turn will contribute to the protection of those who suffer during armed conflict.”

The two-day symposium covered a diverse range of topics and generated engaging discussions on contemporary issues related to the maritime domain. Four sessions were conducted over two days, with the first focusing on the intersection of IHL and naval operations, where the speakers discussed the importance of IHL for protecting civilians at sea and the challenges of applying IHL in the maritime domain. The second session focused on non-traditional security challenges and the legal responses to these issues, where experts discussed the need for cooperation between states and international organizations to address these threats.

In the third and fourth sessions, the speakers deliberated on the challenges and opportunities posed by technological advancements for naval warfare and IHL. The panellists stressed the importance of ensuring technological advancements and challenges posed by new technologies are handled in compliance with IHL, as well as the impacts of climate change on naval operations and warfare.

The symposium concluded with a closing ceremony that included valedictory remarks by Dr Anupam Ray, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India, to the Conference on Disarmament, where he appreciated and acknowledged the ICRC.

During the Symposium, ICRC and RRU also celebrated the completion of three years of successful partnership, with the renewal and extension of the Memorandum of Understanding of 2020 for another three years to carry forward the robust engagements on humanitarian issues.