Setting the tone for the two day conference on the Indian Ocean Region organized by the India Foundation, the Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, said that India’s maritime aims are encapsulated in the concept of SAGAR – “Security and Growth for All in the Region” enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Spelling out the elements of SAGAR, Swaraj said that it is meant to enhance capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories & interests; deepen economic and security cooperation in the littoral; promote collective action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors; work towards sustainable regional development through enhanced collaboration; and, engage with countries beyond our shores with the aim of building greater trust and promoting respect for maritime rules, norms and peaceful resolution of disputes.
“The challenge before us is to ensure intra-ocean trade and investment, and the sustainable harnessing of the wealth of the seas, including food, medicines and clean energy.,” the Indian Minister said.
“In India, we are implementing targeted programs for re-energizing economic activity in our islands and our coastal areas. There is also a renewed focus on strengthening marine research, developing eco-friendly marine industrial technologies, promoting sustainable fisheries and, ensuring the protection of the maritime environment,” she explained.
Connectivity is one of the major themes of Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, Swaraj said. Detailing the elements of the connectivity project called SAGARMALA, she said that India remains committed to extending port connectivity among the littoral states of the Indian Ocean and beyond. SAGARMALA aims to establish new ports and modernize old ones.
“We continue to work on a range of projects to improve maritime logistics in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. Our other initiatives include the Kaladan transport project leading to Sittwe port in Myanmar; the Trilateral Highway to Thailand; and, the Chabahar port project in Iran.”
Sustainability lined to Security
Turning to sustainability and security Swaraj said: “For the Indian Ocean economic revival to be sustainable, the waters must not only be better connected but they should remain free from non-traditional and traditional threats that could impede the seamless movement of goods, people and ideas.”
“ Security is fundamental to the SAGAR vision. If the revitalized maritime economy of the Indian Ocean region is to be a force for global economic growth in the coming years, it is essential that the waters remain peaceful, stable and secure. It is imperative too, that all stake holders abide by a rules-based global order,” she said.
“The Indian Ocean is prone to non-traditional security threats like piracy, smuggling, maritime terrorism, illegal fishing, and trafficking of humans and narcotics. We realize that to effectively combat transnational security challenges across the Indian Ocean, including those posed by non-state actors, it is important to develop a security architecture that strengthens the culture of cooperation and collective action,” the Indian External Affairs Minister said. (news.in)