On this day in 1978 the Indian maritime icon, Late Manohar Prahlad Awati (he retired as CinC of Western Naval Command in rank of Vice Admiral in 1983) revived the true heritage of India in its maritime dimension with the first meeting of Maritime History Society in Mumbai. Despite the unsung work of the eminent Grand Sire, I as a author, researcher and teacher owe my current academic credibility to the push and pursuit of academic enquiry. The Patron Emeritus of MHS celebrated my PhD in International Relations on the theme of Maritime Governance. That remains my greatest motivation to encourage many to take up research as a passion.
Admiral Awati spoke highly of a revered Sardar KM Panikkar, a strategic maritime thinker from a turn of history and emergence of Independent India. Panikkar’s diplomatic and political assignments gave him a clear perspective of a strategic direction for India. Panikkar studied Indian history with a great focus on maritime governance and seapower. Incidentally this month would mark 524 years since the Portuguese seafarer Vasco-da-Gama was piloted into Kozhikode on the North Malabar Coast of Kerala.
Sardar Kavalam Madhavan Panikkar in his book, Asia and Western Dominance: a Survey of the Vasco Da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498–1945 describes the context as follows:-
"In 1454 he [Prince Henry the Navigator] received from the Pope Nicholas V the right to all discoveries up to India. The Bull, which is of fundamental importance and is the first of three which determines the Portuguese monopoly in the East, is quoted below:…‘We, after careful deliberation, and having considered that we have by our, apostolic letters conceded to King Affonso, the right, total and absolute, to invade, conquer and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracen or Pagan, by our apostolic letter we wish the same King Affonso, the Prince, and all their successors, occupy and possess in exclusive rights the said islands, ports and seas undermentioned, and all faithful Christians are prohibited without the permission of the said Affonso and his successors to encroach on their sovereignty. Of the conquests already made, or to be made, all the conquests which extend to Cape Bajador and Cape Non to the coast of Guinea and all the Orient is perpetually and for the future the sovereignty of King Affonso." - Sardar KM Panikkar
The big idea that Panikkar brings out is that it is so easy for powerful institutions like the medieval church in Rome to have a patronising and dominating perspective over global issues without the wider contextual framework that flows from a more objective analysis. While the West labels Vasco da Gama’s voyages within the “Age of Discovery” there is a wider perspective that emerges only if one undertakes an objective research. The narrative masks the international trade by sea and central position that Indian Ocean seafaring activity had in Global GDP. A deeper dive would require a much longer piece than this blog.
Here's how this applies to young researchers who seek to make a mark in their academic journey. Ask these questions:
· What is the context and mindset? The medieval global mindset did lead to European endeavours of oceanic voyage and venture but without a comprehensive global context
· What do I have for a better understanding today? Information age has given students of contemporary geopolitics a better scan of Global Politics.
· What threatens to derail or bring a bias in my study? The challenge is that a few international players constantly attempt to disrupt objectivity and maritime collaboration from distorted agendas under the garb of a common heritage and good order. Their agenda driven data and papers bring a distortion bias in research.
· What can I do? Informed research is vital to provide analysis and data constructs to a better strategic understanding and policy making inputs. Good research methodology is vital to effective outcome of the research process.
Research questions in the framework as given above set some significant attention and output in maritime research in my final six years of time in the Indian Navy. It was my honour to have worked with a few dozen young scholars and hopefully inspired them to a lifelong pursuit of maritime research and Indian Oceanic heritage studies.
On a day when news feed reports that Senior Leadership of the Indian Navy and National Maritime Foundation have projected the Indian Maritime Perspective at Sea Power Conference 2022 the best takeaway is pursuit of maritime research and need to enhance #MaritimeConsciousness
So, let's put this into action. Would young academics do the following?
1. Relook at learnings of history, politics and geography in contextual and in its period relevance
2. Identify specific maritime sectors of interest to be taken up for research and investigation
3. Adopt an intentional and exhaustive framework with proper research methodology to get a presentism understanding of the global ocean space
Oh, one more thing...
If you want to know how to really make this work for you, take a minute to book a discovery session to help you jumpstart your research journey at https://www.johnsonodakkal.com. This makes it easy for you to have the recognition of a successful scholar without exhaustion and stress of a struggling research life.