India offers tsunami alert system to SCS countries

As part of a soft-diplomacy effort, India is looking to have South China Sea countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines use the tsunami early warning-system developed by India. China, too has been approached, said a senior official in the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), but a deal is unlikely yet.

Since a deadly tsunami struck Tamil Nadu in 2004, India has put in place its own tsunami-alert system over the years that immediately warns concerned authorities in India of any large earthquake in the Indian Ocean and the threat it poses.

However, because of limited data on the historical occurrence of tsunamis, scientists at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) have developed a technique that uses mathematical modelling to estimate if an earthquake, in India’s oceanic neighbourhood, will result in a tsunami.

The system is also designed to send out a series of graded warnings to warn officials of danger. “There are also sensors lodged on the ocean floor that will measure actual earthquake signals and based on that we can revise our warnings,” said Satheesh Shenoi, Director, INCOIS, “we’ve expanded our modelling capabilities to include countries in the South China sea and so it can be useful to them too.”

India isn’t expecting a commercial deal to result but “fame and leadership” from the effort. “This could help with broader government efforts,” said Mr. Shenoi. The South China sea is a controversial region with China exerting territorial rights over a large part. Some of these territorial claims have been challenged by Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

India so far has only said that all countries must abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which governs how countries must respect international waters and the ocean boundaries of countries. China too is a signatory to this convention.

Another official in the MoES told The Hindu that talks were held with China last year to use India’s early warning system.

“A cooperation agreement was signed last year but it hasn’t moved much,” he added. India already provides earthquake and tsunami-warning alerts to several countries in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood, as do Australia and Japan.

India so far has only said that all nations must abide by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea