Since the blue economy is a concept of crucial importance to the developing world, in particular, it is hardly surprising that the Galle Dialogue, now an established event organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, is attracting greater interest each successive year among the higher echelons of the Navies of the world and a sharper focus on its discussions, Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, said while addressing the Galle Dialogue at the Lighthouse Hotel.
Local and foreign scholars and experts in maritime and naval affairs representing 35 countries participated in the dialogue under the theme, “Emerging Maritime Trends in the Indian Ocean”. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, delivered the keynote address. Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, addressed the inaugural session.
Prof. Peiris made an assessment of the importance of the ocean from the standpoint not only of fisheries but a wide range of activities including scientific research, disaster management, transnational commerce, the control of illicit activity including piracy, narcotics and people smuggling, and leisure time activities associated with tourism. He commented on current developments with regard to the law of the sea, the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone, with special reference to exploitation of marine resources without damage to the environment.
The Minister referred to the dedicated session, for which provision had been made in the recently concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, on Small Island States and their special requirements which had to be catered for because of their exceptional vulnerability. He said that Sri Lanka, as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, and also Chair of G 15 and a member of such regional groupings as SAARC, BIMSTEC and the Asia Co-operation Dialogue (ACD), had innovative ideas in discharging its responsibility in this regard.
Minister Peiris emphasized that the oceans, which are today regarded not as separating countries but as providing a link between cultures and civilizations, have crucial relevance in the context of counter-terrorism initiatives. Drawing on the experience of Sri Lanka, he spelt out the essential elements of a supportive role on the part of the international community. Among these essential elements, he pointed out, are a collaborative approach designed to strengthen countries engaged in combating terrorism or eradicating the scars left behind by terrorism, in the post –conflict phase, recognition of the overlapping and interlocking strategies of terrorist movements, the importance of not succumbing to pressures exerted by domestic constituencies driven by self-serving agendas, the need to pay attention to local situations and priorities, and the application of uniform criteria without selectivity based on political grounds.