Date: 27 August, 2015
Venue: Sapru House, New Delhi
The Indian Council of World Affairs hosted the 19th Sapru House Lecture on ‘Maritime Security for the Blue Economy” by H.E. James Alix Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles on 27 August 2015.
Two ministers who accompanied the President, H.E. Joel Morgan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport and H.E. Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Finance, Trade & Blue Economy, added perspective on the issues highlighted by the President. Ambassador Nalin Surie, Director General, ICWA presided over the function.
At the outset Ambassador Surie, welcomed the President and the Ministers, and said that the Blue economy is not only an important subject for Seychelles but also for India and the international community. He underlined the historical significance of ICWA and its recognition as an institution of national importance by Act of parliament since the turn of the century.
Highlighting Seychelles as a vital partner in the Indian Ocean Region, Ambassador Surie said that both countries share a strong, mutually beneficial security partnership, which has acquired a greater significance and salience, following the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the island nation in March this year and the reciprocal visit of President Michel’s to India.
On the development of Blue economy, he said that Prime Minister Modi during his visit to the Seychelles had underlined that Ocean Economy is indispensable for meeting future challenges and cooperation on this area has received a substantial boost with H.E. Mr Michel’s visit. Ambassador Surie further added that developing collaboration on the marine economy and resources will not only be mutually gainful but also benefit the entire Indo-Pacific Region; a region that looms increasingly larger in India’s future plans and programmes.
In his address President Michel shared his reflections on India- Seychelles relations in the context of maritime security and the Blue economy. He said that India and Seychelles are two neighbouring countries linked by the Indian Ocean and both share a vision of peace and prosperity in the region and lot to offer to each other.
On maritime security, he mentioned that India and Seychelles have a shared interest in the security of the Indian Ocean and it is important that both continue to strive for ownership of maritime safety and security. At present the need for their cooperation is more relevant than ever, as Indian Ocean is a shared space that connects both countries to the world and also a critical space for world trade. India and Seychelles share an exemplary partnership in the defence and security sectors. The President commended India’s pro-active role in the fight against piracy and other forms of transnational crimes and pointed out that though they have been able to successfully prevail upon the threat of piracy, yet both countries have to remain vigilant. He said that Seychelles will continue to act decisively with India against all forms of transnational crimes and ensure that the seas remain a space for development for the benefit of the peoples of the region.
Underscoring the importance of Oceans as a strategic natural capital for sustainable growth, the President said that innovation, research and entrepreneurship need to be encouraged to engage with the sea in novel ways. The signing of the agreement between India and Seychelles in the field of the Blue Economy will increase understanding of marine ecology and resources and boost scientific and economic cooperation. He emphasized that the Blue Economy is key to the future of Seychelles as well as, the Indian Ocean region, Africa and the world as a whole. It is an important component of debate and action on the international agenda and it is at the heart of the economic agenda of the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. It is also an integral component of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Organisation’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and also a key element of the new United Nation’s sustainable development goals of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
H.E Mr Joel Morgan the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport, shared his perspectives on India-Seychelles relationship in the context of the development of Blue Economy. The minister began by tracing the ancient maritime linkages between India and Seychelles. He stated that in the past (from about third millennium,3 BCE) as well as present the ocean provided the people of different countries including India with a means to trade and means to flourish. At present India still exerts great influence over the Indian Ocean.
He pointed out how the sea is of vital importance to a small island nation like Seychelles for livelihood and economy. Though Seychelles is categorized as a high income status nation, he stressed that it still remains a vulnerable small island developing state, exposed to external threats such as piracy and climate change. He acknowledged that without open and secure sea routes, without trade by merchant ships their vision of developing ‘Blue Economy’ would be severely hampered. The successes that they enjoy at present have been possible through a sustained and focused response to the maritime threats such as piracy when they arose.
In this context of maritime security he welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s doctrine on Indian Ocean and its five declared principles namely (i) defending one’s own territory, (ii) deepening security cooperation with regional partners, (iii) building multilateral cooperative maritime security in the Indian Ocean, (iv) sustainable economic development and (v) extending cooperation with major powers offers an opportunity for a sustained and peaceful growth of the Indian ocean region.
He said safety and security goes hand in hand with economic development and maritime security is an important element for development of the blue economy. Drawing attention to maritime threats such as the acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and its negative economic impact, he said that Seychelles encouraged Somalia to be developed as a peaceful and stable nation. He believed that without peace on land there will be no peace in the high seas. He thanked the international community and its key partners in the region including India, for whom, peace in Somalia is being achieved step by step. With acts of piracy having diminished, he stressed that there must be continued consultation on ‘High Risk Areas (HRA)’ among stakeholders, so that an informed approach can be taken together. The HRA’s which were instrumental in staving off piracy, and permitted ships to transit under strict security protocols, are causing additional costs, he added.
To achieve long lasting maritime security in the region, he suggested that there should be a cohesive transnational crime prevention approach and response strategy that is focused on the rule of law. In case of Somalia piracy, he said a critical contributing factor that led to its emergence is the lack of regional maritime domain awareness to tackle piracy and other crimes committed in the high seas. Other contributing factors he noted are weak institutions and absence of rule of law in Somalia, which the pirates’ organizations took advantage of.
At present the region being increasingly challenged by criminal structures spanning out into different countries, the minister said to improve maritime domain capability, Seychelles is partnering with India and other key international partners.
On the aspect of India’s cooperation on maritime security, he highlighted that their own maritime development and security can be proudly linked to fraternal relations existing between the Indian Navy and the Seychelles and more specifically with the Seychelles Coast Guards. He noted that numerous surveillance missions of the INS within their EEZ provide much needed assistance that has positively contributed to enhancing their capabilities. He appreciated that such assistance will further develop their maritime security and will enhance their ‘Blue Economy’. He further added that during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seychelles in March 2015, India announced to provide second Dornier aircraft for maritime monitoring, signed an agreement for conducting hydrographic surveys, and launched the coastal surveillance radar project, which are significant announcements that are underway confirming the strong ties between both nations and the value that India placed on Seychelles as a key partner. Further agreements signed are common development of Blue Economy in the common ocean.
Acknowledging India as a true partner and the value of its assistance for maritime security in the common oceans, the minister said, that Seychelles is actively considering to be a part of the Indian Ocean tripartite security arrangement, which includes India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. He also mentioned that India and Seychelles are engaged in technology cooperation, which means the island nation can better manage and respond to threats to maritime security domain.
Highlighting that the Blue economy links all the regional states surrounding the ocean, he said the imperative is while maximizing the potential of the ocean it is key to ensure that the Ocean environment is not degraded. Because if it is done otherwise, it will not only degrade the viability of the ocean, but also adversely impact the people in the region, thus creating more insecurity. Therefore he emphasized upon the protection of oceans as a key element of maritime security for a successful ‘Blue Economy’. At present both countries he said are united and working for a peaceful Indian Ocean, which contributes to a maritime security posture that will ensure growth, stability and progress for the respective nations.
Welcoming the gathering, H.E. Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Finance, Trade and Blue economy, spoke about the idea of blue economy, situating it as a main development goal, within the development of wider region and ultimately within the SDGs. He recognized the importance of the role of institutions such as ICWA, in providing the leadership required to move forward the concept such as Blue economy. He said India and Indian institutions are well placed to drive the idea. Recalling the international Yoga day celebration in Seychelles he drew parallel between Yoga and Blue Economy. He Yoga is India’s gift to the world. The world has embraced it as a move to recognize how personal wellbeing can be encapsulated into a wider movement for global prosperity. Blue Economy can be looked at in the similar way. Through Blue economy one can seek to create individual opportunity while situating it within the drive for global prosperity and sustainability.
Highlighting India –Seychelles relations the minister said both countries have chosen to become friends, allies and partners and through shared blue economy goals they have chosen opportunity, prosperity and shared responsibility for sustainability. He stressed that the Blue economy requires a paradigm shift, to reset the views of development taking into account maritime space. Both India and Seychelles by signing an agreement on blue economy have joined to lead this effort. For Seychelles, he said it is natural as only one percent of the territory is land and 99 percent is water. It is the second largest EEZ in Africa .Therefore Seychelles has to situate within the oceanic development context.
In order to move towards Blue Economy, the minister shared perspective on six areas that need to be jointly considered in order to make it work. Those are:
The minister ended by saying that the above elements must be considered in terms of developing blue economy building on the first basis on maritime security. Through maritime security other perspectives can be build and build true blue economy. All of these must be situated under the umbrella of sustainability.
The questions /issues/ observations shared during the lecture are :
Prepared by Dr Nivedita Ray, Research Fellow, ICWA