Dr Dhanuraj, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi
Ambassador TP Sreenivasan,
Distinguished Speakers and Participants,
It is my pleasure to address the webinar on ‘Strategic Futures: Regional Maritime Security Complexes’ jointly organized by ICWA with its MoU partner - Kochi-based Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), as part of a collaborative research project.
The Indo-Pacific region is the new geographic formulation that combines two large bodies of water - the Indian and the Pacific Oceans in a seamless continuum. which indeed the two oceans are. For this reason, the Indo-Pacific region emerges from the prism of Asian civilizational connections and historical maritime connectivity, in which traders from Arabia, Persia, India, Southeast Asia and China sailed across the seas and oceans of the Indo-Pacific, creating a flourishing maritime enterprise.
In the 21st century, Indo-Pacific region has gained immense significance for numerous reasons that span the political-diplomatic-economic-strategic spectrum. The Indo-Pacific countries are steadfast to harness the forces of globalization; and this is reflected in the numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements and arrangements promoting integration and interdependence leading to economic growth and prosperity.
While this augurs well for the Indo-Pacific, the region is also experiencing unprecedented strategic turbulence, great power competition, and confrontational security dynamics among regional powers. The norms and principles for a peaceful region are increasingly being challenged.
At another level, the Indo-Pacific maritime theater also has its fair share of non-traditional threats and challenges which have triggered cooperative security options. The Indo-Pacific countries are using the maritime medium for developing regional and international cooperation as reflected in the ‘maritime multilateralism’ of Indian Ocean Rim association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), ADMM Plus, ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF), Djibouti Code of Conduct(DCoC) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).
These competitive, cooperative and convergent security paradigms in the Indo-Pacific region present complex challenges for States, who must assign priorities in their respective engagements for achieving the goals of a stable, peaceful and prosperous rule-based maritime order.
It merits our attention that the single geopolitical unit of Indo-Pacific comprises of several sub-regions with their own inter-state and intra-regional challenges as also opportunities. The search for cooperative solutions to maritime threats and challenges that can potentially contribute to stability and order requires the study of these regional security complexes, their inter-connectedness and the interplay of their strategic concerns.
The western Pacific is currently marked by intense great power competition. This has exacerbated regional tensions.
In the Bay of Bengal, under cooperative initiative such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC); littoral countries are focused on issues such as climate change, environment and ecology and human development.
The Northern Arabian Sea security complex has its fair share of non-traditional threats like piracy, terrorism, while traditional threats and challenges loom large and these have the potential for escalatory dynamics.
The Indian Ocean security complex presents a milieu of challenges and threats and these straddle across majorly in the non-traditional realm. However, the IORA and regional States have developed a sophisticated architecture pivoting on cooperative agendas. India is also an important observer in the Djibouti Code of Conduct and Indian Ocean Commission.
India has an all-encompassing vision for the Indo-Pacific and is committed to a “free and open, inclusive and rules based, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” On August 9, Prime Minister 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. It saw Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi called for international cooperation to enhance maritime security and combat maritime threats and challenges based on five principles related to India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), These are : (i) removing barriers to legitimate maritime trade, (ii) peaceful settlement of disputes based on international law, (iii) jointly fighting maritime threats created by natural disasters and non-state actors, (iv) preservation of maritime environment and maritime resources, and (v) responsible maritime connectivity. PM urged the international community to build an open and inclusive framework based on mutual understanding and cooperation that ensures a safe, secure and stable maritime domain. A Presidential Statement outlining the principles for international cooperation to enhance maritime security and safety was unanimously adopted at the end of the debate, marking the first comprehensive outcome document by the UN Security Council on the issue of maritime security. With greater focus on maritime safety and security, this conference is timely and I compliment the CPPR for choosing to study and understand the Indo-Pacific region through regional security complexes. We look forward to receiving the publications proposed under the collaborative research project.