At the outset, I want to convey my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for attending this Conclave, despite the COVID -19 pandemic. This Conclave is an initiative to promote dialogue in an institutional and cooperative environment that can foster the development of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region. India is the largest country and has a vast coastline of 7500 Kms in the IOR region, has to play an active role for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all IOR countries.
We all have a shared asset, that is, the Indian Ocean. It is an important lifeline to international trade and transport as it commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments.
As Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi articulated in 2015, SAGAR -Security and Growth for All in the Region- is the theme of our Indian Ocean Policy. This outlook towards the Indian Ocean Region emanates from the ingrained element of our civilizational basic ethos “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means that the entire world is a family. Therefore, IOR conclave should focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism and intercultural exchanges among participating countries.
SAGAR has various inter-related elements – such as deepening economic and security cooperation in the littorals, enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, working towards sustainable regional development, Blue Economy, including sustainable and regulated fishing, and promoting collective action to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy, terrorism, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing etc. The present maritime security scenario in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is posing a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs/ people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search & Rescue(SAR). Maritime collaboration and co-operation among IOR countries can help meet these challenges effectively and efficiently and ensure peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region.
We, therefore, have to join hands in looking at these threats in unison, because one’s threat today may be another’s tomorrow. Maritime resources, will be key to sustained growth and development of nations across the Indian Ocean Region in the ongoing century. We have already seen the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world. We must, therefore, ensure that the maritime expanse of the Indian Ocean is peaceful and is optimally harnessed for the benefit of all nations in the region.
Together, we have demonstrated our mutual respect for a rules based order, setting an example of how abiding with international law will enable harnessing the global commons for the good of all.
Government of India has taken various policy initiatives to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea like Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and Asia Africa Growth Corridor etc.
In order to synergize efforts of all IOR countries to ensure safety & security in this region, it is high time that we take our economy, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration to the higher level.
As evident to all of us, there is a political, strategic and economic logic for IOR to be the region of the future. Futures of countries in the IOR are interlinked and dependent on how effectively and efficiently we tackle present and emerging challenges and leverage opportunities in the Indian Ocean. Therefore,
it is an opportune moment to deliberate upon the political, economical and defence issues of common interests. Organising a Conclave of countries in the IOR on the margins of the international event “AeroIndia-2021” shows the importance India attaches to the vision of common growth and stability, and constructive engagements with IOR countries. Our efforts are to synergise the resources and efforts in the Indian Ocean, including, defence Industry industrial cooperation amongst participating countries.
Due to its geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), maritime character, India has enjoyed historical and cultural ties with the littoral states. India has been at the forefront of a regional cooperation initiative of the Indian Ocean Rim countries. India is one of the founder members of Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORA-RC), established in March 1997 with the aim of promoting economic and technical cooperation, including expansion of trade and investment with 23 members and 09 (nine) Dialogue Partners. It aims to create a platform for trade, socio-economic and cultural cooperation in the Indian Ocean rim area, which is home to about 2.7 Billion people.
Many of the IOR countries are becoming globally competitive and are developing new technologies, including defence shipyards for design & shipbuilding, which can be jointly harnessed through regional cooperation efforts. Today, IORA is a dynamic organisation committed to building and expanding understanding and harnessing mutually beneficial cooperation through a consensus based and non-intrusive approach.
The Aerospace & Defence sector in India has come a long way. Its private and public sector industries in this sector are at the forefront of developing state of the art technologies. The recent order from the Indian Air Force of 83 Advanced Light Helicopters Mk-1A to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a milestone in our march for developing indigenous defence manufacturing capabilities. The Indian aerospace and defence industries present an attractive and significant opportunity for foreign companies across the supply chain to take their cooperation to newer levels. India is ready to supply various types of Missile systems, Light Combat Aircrafts/Helicopters, Multi-Purpose Light Transport aircraft, Warship and Patrol Vessels, Artillery Gun systems, Tanks, Radars, Military Vehicles, Electronic Warfare Systems and other weapons systems to IOR countries.
India is fast emerging as a global R&D hub. A large number of Indian private companies and public research laboratories are looking for international partners. Our Start up ecosystem in one of the world’s biggest and is playing a significant role in shaping a self–reliant India by fostering innovation and technology development also in the field of defence and aerospace. The IOR countries can leverage this for mutual benefit.
In consonance with the Hon’ble Prime Mister’s vision of SAGAR…, which stands for ‘Security And Growth for All in the Region’ and ‘Neighbourhood First and also Act East Policies’, India has adopted a cooperative approach by helping to build capacities of partner countries by providing Indian made ships, maritime aircraft and setting-up of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems.
We have also taken the initiative to develop a comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness picture in the IOR, which has resulted in signing of Technical Agreements for sharing of ‘White Shipping Information’ with many countries.
As we all know, the IOR and its hinterland generally form the locus of the world’s natural disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, and floods. India has always been at the forefront of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO), and Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations in the maritime neighbourhood. We are proud to have been the first responder in numerous instances of unfortunate natural disaster in the region. We have always been ready to share our expertise and capacity to all countries in the IOR for planning and coordination in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR). Swift response by India was a sign of solidarity in case of cyclones in Mozambique and Madagascar.
In recent COVID-19 pandemic times, op-SAGAR-1 saw us reaching out to our neighbours –Mauritius, Maldives, Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros and assist them with medical teams, medicines such as hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies. Op-SAGAR-II saw over 300 metric tons of humanitarian aid being delivered to our friends in Eritrea, Djibouti and North & South Sudan.
Presently, the GoI has been receiving requests from IOR countries and neighbouring countries for the supply of India manufactured vaccines. In keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Seychelles have already begun. In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances. Prior to the delivery of the vaccines, a training programme, covering administrative and operational aspects, is being conducted for immunization managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries, both at national and provincial levels. Several training courses have been organized for healthcare workers and administrators of partner countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, by sharing our experience in dealing with the pandemic. Developing an effective response mechanism to address humanitarian crisis and natural disasters in the IOR countries is one of the most visible elements in India’s evolving Indian Ocean strategy.
Therefore, our collective efforts to address the vast and varied challenges of the existing and future maritime threats in the IOR, will necessitate a cooperative and collaborative approach for enabling tranquil seas. Ladies and Gentlemen, India’s approach and vision to tackle global challenges has been highlighted by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his dynamic five ‘S’ vision, which comprises of Samman (Respect)…, Samvaad (Dialogue)…, Sahyog (Cooperation)…, Shanti (Peace)… and Samriddhi (SAM-RIDDHI) (Prosperity). It is our desire to promote cooperation between our IOR regional partner nations to achieve our common objectives.
I look forward to constructive and fruitful discussions towards enhancing co-operation and coordination among countries of Indian Ocean Region. I also hope that this Conclave and the two follow up seminars will be instrumental in realizing Indian Ocean region into a region of “Peace, Progress and Prosperity”.
I once again welcome you all for this Conclave and hope that we all will make full use of this platform for furthering peace and prosperity in the IOR.