Excellences, participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed an honor and privilege to participate in the 9th IOD as part of Indian Delegation and present my views here as a panelist in the Dialogue.
Oceans and seas have always been a significant contributor to the economic prosperity, providing impetus for the growth of the maritime enterprise. Over the years, dependence on the seas for human needs has only grown. They are playing ever more significant role in the current globalised century as the maritime domain is one of the root enablers of globalization because it is the medium by which more than 90 percent of the world trade is transported. This is well appreciated but what less is known is the fact that more than three-fourths of this water surface is beyond any legal regime, a kind of free for all, hence poses huge challenge in the management of Oceans. Overall, the idea of Ocean governance is about managing oceans; in a manner so that they are productive in a peaceful and sustainable manner i.e. harnessing their Blue economy capacity.
The Indian Ocean, covering about 20% of the earth surface, strategically located connecting, the three continents of Africa, Asia, and Australia. It has significant economic and strategic value attached to it, as the region connects the energy-rich Middle East, the resource-rich Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, ASEAN, growing economies of East Asia and islands in the region. The Ocean is a centre of global attention more than ever, perceived as emerging centre of gravity in the context of rising salience of the Indo-Pacific in the regional and global discourse.
The Ocean encompasses some of the most critical sea-lanes of communication for global commerce, most significant being the Malacca straits in the east and Hormuz Strait on the west. The Ocean is World’s busiest trade corridor with approximately 2/3 of the world’s oil shipment and 1/3 of the bulk cargo passing through the Indian Ocean. As much as 25 percent of international maritime trade passes through the Strait of Malacca alone. What is noticeable is that three-fourths of this traffic goes to other regions of the world. Therefore, peaceful and stable IOR is essential from the regional and the international economic and strategic perspectives as well.
The concept of blue economy is one of the most crucial topics associated with the maritime domain. It covers wide expanse of activities related to Ocean, seas, and coasts extending from maritime trade, the naval industry, fisheries, marine technology and scientific research, integrated coastal management, marine eco-tourism, inland waterways. Blue Economy, which is one of the priority areas of the IORA, emphasizes on the idea of Oceans as the drivers of economy, for sustainable development contributing in energy security, food security and other related areas.
The UN agenda 2030, SDG 14 on ‘life under sea’ emphasises on “conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” captures the essence of Blue Economy. It serves as the guiding principle for global governance and use of ocean resources and also promoting international cooperation in the area.
From the perspective of blue economy certainly Indian Ocean has enormous resources and its importance only grown over the period of time. Whether it is from the perspective of fisheries and aquaculture, ocean based renewable energy, seabed mineral, being one of the most significant trade corridors so crucial from the point of shipping industries globally, the IOR certainly is of critical significance.
However, at the same time the IOR maritime theater is faced with various challenges to harnessing the Blue economy capacities. The following are non-traditional threats mostly from non-state actors, which are also more often than not transnational in nature.
All these not only limits the goal of promotion blue economy in the region and but also challenges holistic management of the maritime space in the IOR.
What is lacking is a cohesive approach in the littoral countries towards sea governance for overcoming myriad of maritime threats and challenges facing the littorals.
In present scenario of multifaceted challenges, security has to be understood as comprehensive and cooperative to deal with the common challenges and secure global commons. Regional and multilateral cooperation is indispensable to deal with such non-traditional challenges. Therefore, the governance infrastructure that addresses the maritime security issues will have to operate on the local, national, regional and global level alike. Cooperative solutions to such challenges such as efforts in the direction of sharing of best practices among the various agencies of regional countries, countries which have capacities can provide assistance in capacity building in field of disaster management and resilience, sharing knowledge on early warning system, adaptation and mitigation practices for climate change, and also promoting public-private partnerships would be useful. All these can potentially contribute to a stable and secure maritime order in the region. At the same time respect for international laws most importantly the 1982 UNCLOS, is key to safe and secure maritime domain.
Marine Domain Awareness (MDA) is key to maritime security, important here is the role of information fusion centers, to facilitate a reliable MDA environment in the IOR by helping to create predictive analysis and allows better preparedness to challenges in the maritime domain. Here an important recent development has been the announcement of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), at the Quad Tokyo Summit. It is designed to work with regional partners to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters, and combat illegal fishing. IPMDA will support and work in consultation with Indo-Pacific nations and regional information fusion centers in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands by providing technology and training to support enhanced, shared maritime domain awareness to promote stability and prosperity in our seas and oceans. The initiative is a good example of collaborative and coordinated efforts, to respond to shared challenges in the global commons.
Multilateralism is key in addressing ocean issues which are mostly interrelated in nature. Here comes the significance of ‘maritime multilateralism’ through institutions like IORA and ASEAN, for institutionalizing engagements, strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. The region has many initiatives at the multilateral level that play an important role in maritime domain, these are IORA, IOC, ASEAN, with its ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and related mechanisms like ARF, ADMM+, EAS, that play a crucial role in sustaining a dynamic multilateralism for a stable and secure regional order in the wider Indo-Pacific region. For Example: IORA with its member states and dialogue partners is committed to a robust approach in dealing with common challenges in the IOR and also in promoting the agenda of sustainable use of Ocean resources. At the same time, it is also important to bring in other relevant maritime stakeholders and agencies including non-state groups will enable an all-inclusive approach towards ocean management in the region.
India’s approach and initiatives
In India, blue economy, is an important potential area in country’s economic policy framework which can contribute to the overall economic growth mainly focusing on improving lives of coastal communities, preserving marine biodiversity. The significance of the idea was clearly articulated by PM Modi, speaking in Mauritius in 2015, as he said that “the blue chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of the ‘blue revolution’, or the ‘ocean economy’”. It presents a vast socio-economic opportunity for the country to utilise plethora of ocean resources for societal benefit responsibly. India also has a draft National Policy for India's Blue Economy-2021, which is in the process of finalisation.
India has always taken a lead in shaping the global discourse on issues related to maritime space. India is committed to the maritime agenda at the global level. On August 9, PM Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to preside over a UN Security Council high-level open debate, in the first holistic discussion on the issue of maritime security in the UNSC, at India’s initiative.
India’s own recent initiatives can be seen from the perspective of contributing to overall management and utilisation of ocean in sustainable manner. One is the initiative of SAGAR-that stands for security and growth for all in the region, focusing on cooperation in trade, tourism, infrastructure, environment, blue economy and security. It encourages states to cooperate and synergise efforts towards a safe, secure and stable maritime domain as also take meaningful steps for the conservation and sustainable use of the maritime domain. India’s engagement with the littorals of the ocean is deep; endeavor is to strengthen relationships with regional partners in a mutually supportive and cooperative manner under the vision of SAGAR. The vision of SAGAR, is further enhanced by the announcement of IPOI in 2019 at the EAS Summit. IPOI seeks to build a community of stakeholders by creating partnerships with like-minded countries through practical cooperation in an open and inclusive manner.
It has seven pillars including maritime security, maritime ecology, maritime resources, capacity building and resource sharing, disaster risk reduction and management, science, technology and academic cooperation; and trade, connectivity and maritime transport.
IPOI will contribute immensely to various other initiatives for maritime security and sustainable use of oceans. India is encouraging other countries to join the IPOI and also lead some thematic areas under the Initiative. So far Australia, France, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy and Japan have joined the IPOI.
India also plays an active and positive role in the multilateral regional architecture in the IOR. The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), and International Solar Alliance are intrinsic to India’s regional and global commitment to climate change agenda.
Training and capacity building in MDA, HADR space, is another aspect of India’s cooperation in the region. Indian Navy and coast guard have played active role in providing effective and timely assistance in disaster management and resilience. India has capabilities and responsibilities to work towards building a stable, secure, and cohesive environment in the IOR.
These efforts are in line with India’s overall vision of Indo-Pacific region of which Indian Ocean is a central part. The vision envisages a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region built on rules-based international order, which embraces all countries in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. India is seeking a more cooperative and integrated future for the region through overall development of the ocean-based blue economy.
At the institution level, it has been a privilege for the ICWA to have been engaged with IORA, as the knowledge partner of Ministry of External Affairs, India, for two Indian Ocean Dialogues in 2019 and 2021, and as the Chair of IORA Academic Group (IORAG) for 2019-2021.
Churning the water on the Indian Ocean in a sustainable manner and a holistic, integrated regional approach, is needed for successfully utilizing the IO’ blue economy capacities and management of Ocean. It also requires collaboration across borders and sectors through a variety of partnerships. A collective approach therefore, is a necessity in present circumstances.