Mrs. Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs
Dr. Malini V Shankar, Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University (IMU), Chennai
Allow me to extend to all of you a very warm welcome to the “National Consultations on Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)”. This is being hosted by the ICWA in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs.
India is an ancient maritime nation and home to some of the oldest sea ports in the world. For millennia, our people have transversed the waters of the oceans carrying with them goods, ideas and religion, establishing civilizational links from Africa to Gulf across Mallaca Straits to South East Asia. Oceans and seas have deeply influenced India’s history and will shape its destiny as well. Today, 90% of our trade by volume takes place through seas. We have a coastline of 7,500 kms., 1200 islands and 2.4 million sq. kms of Exclusive Economic Zone. With such a long maritime tradition and such a wide maritime footprint, it is but natural for India to have extensive stakes in the peace, prosperity, stability and security of the oceans around it.
India, therefore, has made and continues to make seminal contributions to shape the global discourse on many issues of importance relating to the maritime space.
Many of you may recall that in March 2015, during his visit to Mauritius, Prime Minister Modi articulated the concept of SAGAR, i.e., Security and Growth for All in the Region. It is a vision for advancing cooperation and building partnerships to ensure a safe, secure and stable Indian Ocean region, that delivers prosperity to all, through orderly and sustainable use of oceans.
At the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore in 2018, Prime Minister Modi spoke of Indo Pacific region as a natural region extending from the shores of East Africa to the Western Pacific region, with ASEAN centrality wherein two large bodies of water – the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean flow, in a seamless continuum. India’s approach to the Indo Pacific, is one of a free and open; inclusive and rule based region, with respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty; and where the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight; unimpeded flow of lawful commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, are upheld.
Subsequently, on 4 November, 2019, at the East Asia Summit in Bangkok, Prime Minister Modi announced the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), which is focused on practical cooperation in seven thematic areas, viz. : (i) Maritime Security; (ii) Maritime Ecology; (iii) Maritime Resources; (iv) Capacity Building and Resource Sharing; (v) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (vi) Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation; and (vii) Trade, Connectivity and Maritime Transport.
IPOI seeks to build a community of stakeholders by creating partnerships. While taking lead on several pillars of the IPOI, India is encouraging other countries to join this initiative. Some of the thematic areas under the Initiative, already have other countries taking lead on them.
ICWA is one of the Knowledge Partners/Think Tanks for the promotion and implementation of three pillars of the IPOI viz.,(i) Maritime Security; (ii) Capacity Building and Resource Sharing; and (iii) Science, Technology & Academic Cooperation.
However, the purpose of these national consultations is to discuss all seven pillars and come up with concepts and practical ideas that will take forward the implementation of all pillars with partner countries.
IPOI will contribute immensely to various other initiatives for maritime security and sustainable use of oceans. We believe that it would also be an important contribution in the coming years, to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development being observed from 2021-2030.
India is committed to the maritime agenda at the global level. Recently under its Presidency of the UNSC, India identified maritime security as a priority area. Prime Minister Modi participated in the high-level UNSC Open Debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security: A case for International Cooperation’. India’s focus on maritime issues continues.
Let me once again welcome you all. This National Consultation on IPOI is one of many similar events that will follow in the coming months, including an International Conference scheduled in November this year.
We look forward to constructive and fruitful discussions on this important subject.