South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Sovereignty over High Seas: Piracy and International Law in the Indian Ocean

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

This paper investigates the nineteenth-century colonial discourse on piracy and murder around the islands of Andamans and Nicobars, Bay of Bengal, on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. It is pointed out that the perceived threats of piracy to traders and murder of shipwrecked crew around these islands formed the background against which the British colonial state-administration intervened in the high seas by consolidating its jurisdiction and control in the sea-lanes of their maritime-commercial network. These measures are placed within the precedent and tradition set by the discourse of Mare Clausum (closed seas), well-established in the English tradition as espoused by seventeenth-century jurist such as John Selden, that contested the notion of the seas as free for navigation (Mare Liberum). It is further argued that the colonial state’s proposed policy of transporting convicts for ‘occupation’ of the territories of these islands as penal settlements was to project sovereignty over the Bay of Bengal as ‘British sea’— a claim which gained prominence apropos the second Anglo-Burman war (1856).


As piracy is intrinsically related to maritime legal order and legitimate sponsorship, various proposed measures of intervention by the colonial state in the high seas had to be probed against the tenets of international law. The supposed claim of Danish sovereignty over the Nicobars, for e.g., hindered British sovereign claims over the islands until 1868. It is argued in consonance with Lauren Benton that ‘High seas were not a lawless zone but a legal space constructed by inter-imperial tension (Benton: 2010,34).

Suparna Sengupta

Independent Scholar, India

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Suparna Sengupta


Assets

3 - Sovereignty over High Seas: Piracy and International Law in the Indian Ocean



Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for Sovereignty over High Seas: Piracy and International Law in the Indian Ocean