Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Capacity Building Workshop on United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982
29 January 2021; Virtual
Smt. Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, India
Director General, ICWA Dr. TCA Raghavan,
Distinguished Speakers and Participants
It is with great pleasure that I join today this distinguished group at the IORA Capacity Building Workshop on UNCLOS organized by Indian Council of World Affairs. I thank all our foreign and Indian speakers and attendees for their participation in this event and I would like to express my appreciation to ICWA for the hard work that has gone into organizing this meeting and bringing together the diverse group of experts and stakeholders gathered here to deliberate upon a topic of considerable global significance.
In recent years, the salience of IORA has been growing significantly. This is evident from the fact that not only the number of IORA Member States has grown to nearly 23, but also that, now all the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council are engaged or seek engagement with IORA. Since 2011 when IORA priority areas were identified during India’s Chairship, IORA member countries have shown renewed interest in participating in and launching a number of programs to coordinate between regional economies in a diverse range of areas and activities. We see IORA as an apex body in the Indian Ocean Region that can respond effectively to the needs of Member States and can enhance individual and collective capacities of Member-States to tackle contemporary challenges of sustainable and balanced economic growth, development and common maritime domain issues.
The Indian Ocean region from Africa’s East coast to West Asia, South Asia and South East Asia and reaching Australia has been a major focus of India’s foreign policy. India’s approach in the region has been aptly captured in the acronym ‘SAGAR’ – Security and Growth for All in the Region. India seeks to enhance mutual cooperation in our region, with a view to offer our capabilities and share best practices for the development and prosperity of all in the Indian Ocean Region; and assist our neighbours and island states in building their maritime security and development capabilities. From our perspective, IORA provides an effective multilateral platform that facilitates realization of hitherto untapped opportunities for collaboration seeking to enhance prosperity, peace and development in the region.
As this gathering would be aware, India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative articulated by the Prime Minister in 2019 seeks to promote a free, open, inclusive and rules based Indo-Pacific region. Building upon the convergences between; the Work of the IORA Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security; the discussions held at the 7th Indian Ocean Dialogue held in Delhi in 2019, and the Maritime Security pillar of IPOI, India took up the responsibility to foster greater discussion and capacity building on the 1982 UNCLOS, which lays down a comprehensive regime for upholding law and order in the world's oceans and seas by establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.
The oceans hold the key to the fortunes of a fast evolving global order. The Oceans are the cradles of civilisations and a civilisation can only prosper when the seas are safe, secure and free for all. We have seen the tragedy of tsunamis and cyclones. Terror has visited us from the sea. We all feel the rising impact of climate change on our coasts and islands. In this backdrop, IORA countries need to strengthen their cooperation efforts to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of the maritime domain, a global common. For cooperation to be effective, we need to resolve outstanding maritime disputes expeditiously through dialogue and on the basis of accepted principles of international law. India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.
In the past, India has shown how maritime boundary delimitation matters with neighbours can be resolved peacefully, in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 UNCLOS. We are all well aware that Sea lanes of communication passing through various seas in the Indian Ocean region and beyond are extremely critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development; and any challenges to the Freedom of Navigation (FoN) in the region can jeopardize developmental efforts in the entire region. Other important organizations in the region like ASEAN, in their recent summit level meetings (26 June 2020) have even observed - that UNCLOS 1982 is the basis for determining sovereign rights, jurisdictions and legitimate interests in the maritime zones. And also that, it is the UNCLOS that lays out the accepted legal framework under which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. As a State Party to the UNCLOS, India urges all parties involved in maritime disputes to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans. We are committed to maintaining a maritime legal order based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Any discussions on dispute resolutions, should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions and it should be fully consistent with international law in particular the UNCLOS 1982.
In addition to the UNCLOS, Dispute Resolution and Issues of Freedom of Navigation, the other two areas that today’s Workshop would focus on i.e. IUU Fishing and issues of Protection of Marine Environment, also converge with the pillars of Maritime Resources and Maritime Ecology of India’s IPOI. We were very encouraged to see the level of interest among IORA Member States in the issues to be discussed at today’s Workshop as we intend to further expand discussions and encourage capacity building initiatives on these and other related issues through various multilateral platforms.
I once again, take this opportunity to thank ICWA for its efforts in organizing this very timely Workshop and convey my best wishes to all speakers and attendees for thought-provoking and enriching discussions today.