Over three-fourths of its traffic goes to other regions of the world.
The vast Indian Ocean Region hosts over 40 states and nearly 40% of the world’s population.
It touches Australia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and the eastern seaboard of Africa. It sparkles with the gems of island states.
Think of the civilisational links, yet great diversity in this vast region! Consider the vast opportunities that it holds!
Today, the world speaks of 21st century driven by the dynamism and the energy of Asia and the Pacific.
But, its course will be determined by the tides of the Indian Ocean.
This is why Indian Ocean is at the centre of global attention more than ever before.
We also see growing global stakes and presence in the Ocean.
Even in this changing world, the oceans hold the key to its fortunes.
And, we will all prosper when the seas are safe, secure and free for all.
To ensure this will be our greatest collective responsibility.
But, we will also have to rise to other challenges that are not uncommon in our region.
We have seen the tragedy of tsumanis and cyclones.
Terror has visited us from sea. Piracy has taken toll of lives and trade on a scale that seemed beyond belief in modern era.
Illegal fishing and oil spills hurt our economies. We all feel the rising impact of climate change on our coasts and islands.
We have also seen that instability and turmoil in coastal and island states can have profound impact on security on the seas.
India is at the crossroads of Indian Ocean.
Since Lothal in Gujarat became one of the earliest seaports in the world, India has had a long maritime tradition.
Our cultural footprints stretch across Asia and Africa. We see this in our strong Diaspora across oceans.
The seas forged links of commerce, culture, and religion with our extended neighbourhood across several millenniums.
Our more recent history has focused our attention on our continental neighborhood.
But, India has been shaped in more ways by the seas around us.
Today, 90% of our trade by volume and 90% of our oil imports take place through sea. We have coastline of 7500 km, 1200 islands and 2.4 million square kilometers of Exclusive Economic Zone.
India is becoming more integrated globally. We will be more dependent than beforeon the ocean and the surrounding regions.
We must also assume our responsibility to shape its future.
So, Indian Ocean Region is at the top of our policy priorities.
Our vision for Indian Ocean Region is rooted in advancing cooperation in our region; and, to use our capabilities for the benefit of all in our common maritime home.
It means many things.
One, we will do everything to safeguard our mainland and islands and defend our interests.
Equally we will work to ensure a safe, secure and stable Indian Ocean Region that delivers us all to the shores of prosperity.
And, our capabilities will be there for those struck by the ocean’s fury. Or, caught in distress on the seas.
Second, we will deepen our economic and security cooperation with our friends in the region especially our maritime neighbours and island states.
We will also continue to build their maritime security capacities and their economic strength.
Three, collective action and cooperation will best advance peace and security in our maritime region. It will also prepare us better to respond to emergencies.
That is why in 2008 India promoted the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. Today, it brings together 35 navies of the region. Our goal is to deepen our mutual understanding on maritime challenges; and, strengthen our collective ability to address them.
We also support efforts to strengthen our regional mechanisms for maritime cooperation – from dealing with piracy terrorism and other crimes; to marine safety and natural disasters.
India has also started maritime security cooperation with Maldives and Sri Lanka and we hope that Mauritius, Seychelles and other nations in the region will join this initiative.
Four, we also seek a more integrated and cooperative future in the region that enhances the prospects for sustainable development for all.
We must promote greater collaboration in trade, tourism and investment; infrastructure development; marine science and technology; sustainable fisheries; protection of marine environment; and, overall development of ocean or blue economy.
To me the blue chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy. That is how central the ocean economy is to us.
For those who live by the ocean, climate change is not an issue of debate but a serious threat to existence. We must assume leadership in our region and call for a more concerted and fair global action to address the challenge of climate change.
Our Indian Ocean Rim Association can be an important instrument for pursuing our vision for a sustainable and prosperous future in the region.
We often define regional groupings around land mass. The time has come for a strong grouping around the Indian Ocean. We will pursue this with new vigour in the years ahead.
There can be no better place to host the Secretariat for IORA than Mauritius. I am pleased that the Secretary General is from India.
Five, those who live in this region have the primary responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean.
But, we recognize that there are other nations around the world, with strong interests and stakes in the region.
India is deeply engaged with them. We do this through dialogue, visits, exercises, capacity building and economic partnership.
Our goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other’s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
We seek a future for Indian Ocean that lives up to the name of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.
We should be inspired by Monsoon, which nurtures and connects us all in region.
We will strive to unite our region in partnership, as we were once in geography.
An Ocean that connects our world should become the pathway of peace and prosperity for all.
It is no coincidence that I speak of our hopes for the Indian Ocean Region in Mauritius.
Our partnership with Mauritius is among our strongest maritime relationships in the world,
Our partnership will grow. We will together build our capabilities. We will also train and patrol the seas together.
But, the foundation of this partnership is larger. It is our shared values and a common vision.
It is our willingness to look beyond our own domain to assume our responsibility for the region.
(This is the edited text of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Barracuda in Mauritius on March 12, 2015)
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