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2nd ASEAN-India Blue Economy Workshop Keynote Address by Secretary (East)

July 18, 2018

Amb. Ton Sinh Thanh, Viet Nam's Ambassador to India
Amb. Mohan Kumar, Chairman, RIS
Prof. Hidetoshi Nishimura, President, ERIA
Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS
Dr Prabir De, Coordinator, ASEAN-India Centre (AIC) at RIS
Distinguished SOM Leaders

Distinguished guests,

Ladies & Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to speak at the 2nd ASEAN India Workshop on Blue Economy. On behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs and Secretary (East) the SOM leader of India, I extend a very warm welcome to all ASEAN Delegates who are here today in our midst. I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Viet Nam, Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries (RIS), ASEAN India Centre at RIS and National Maritime Foundation of India for supporting the Ministry of External Affairs in organising this event.

ASEAN and India are maritime neighbours. We share a vast common maritime domain. As a maritime nation our western and eastern coasts have witnessed intense maritime activity over centuries which have led us to forging commercial, civilisational and cultural linkages, more so with South East Asia. These linkages have provided the base for our connection to ASEAN, a relationship which has only grown stronger over the years.

The salience of the Maritime domain for both India and ASEAN is a geo-economic reality since ancient times and never so important as today. Our reliance on the Oceans for sustenance has only increased with time.

The oceans hold the key to the fortunes of the fast evolving global order. Covering 72% of the Earth's surface and constituting over 95% of the biosphere, oceans provide a substantial portion of the world's population with food and livelihood. 80% of the global goods trade travels via sea, and the marine and coastal environment is a big tourist attraction as well. The seabed currently provides 32% of the global supply of hydrocarbons, and oceans hold massive potential for production of renewable energy. Emerging technologies are opening up new frontiers of marine resource development, leading, among other things, to the mining of seabed mineral resources.

Oceans are cradles of civilizations and for civilizations such as ours to prosper, it is important that we strengthen cooperation to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of the maritime domain. It is this reality that led our Prime Minister to highlight the importance that we attach to the subject of ASEAN-India Cooperation in the Maritime Domain since we believe that it will be a key facilitator for growth and development of the Indo-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed this aspect in his Keynote Address at the Shangri La Dialogue on 1 June 2018 at Singapore, when he said, and I quote: "Oceans holds the key to our future”.

There are many facets to this cooperation.

One of the important elements is that of maritime connectivity. This is important since our region has been witnessing a steadily expanding commercial and subsistence activities at sea relating to trade and transportation, resource exploitation and the leisure industry. Enhanced maritime connectivity would therefore provide lower logistic costs, and motivate increased trade in goods and services. We are working together for an early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport between ASEAN and India and are exploring maritime cargo routes/coastal shipping services between us.

Blue Economy is of course one of the most important and key areas of cooperation. By harnessing marine resources for economic and social development, in a sustainable manner, without undermining these finite natural resources, is imperative. Blue Economy is the path on which alternate economic models for sustainable development is based, while keeping oceans as the central focal point.

ASEAN India cooperation in the field of Blue Economy has tremendous scope. Through the efficient harnessing of blue resources, including through use of new and emerging technologies, the issues of poverty, food insecurity, unemployment and ecological imbalance can be effectively tackled. Research and innovations in marine biotechnology, higher access to seabed resources, investment in marine ICT and proper integration of coastal tourism and other services can play a crucial role in injecting stimulus to create additional economic activities for both ASEAN and India.

To pursue this idea, we organised the first ASEAN India workshop on Blue Economy: From Concept to Action, Nha Trang in Vietnam in November 2017. The workshop examined a number of dimensions, ranging from maritime connectivity, renewable energy, marine resource conservation, and coastal management.

The Indian Government stands committed to promoting the Blue Economy. Our Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi has spoken about it on several occasions at national and international levels. He observed: "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”. He endorsed Blue Economy as a new pillar of economic activity in the coastal areas and linked hinterlands through sustainable tapping of oceanic resources. He announced his vision for the seas through "Security and Growth for all in the Region” (SAGAR).

During the first Maritime India Summit 2016 in Mumbai a number of investment commitments, of nearly US$ 13 billion were made in shipping, ports and allied sectors. Government plans to invest US$ 190 billion over the next ten years to develop 27 industrial clusters, and to improve connectivity with ports through new rail and road projects. These are expected to create "immense employment opportunities” in the ports, roads and shipping sectors over and above the 10 million potential jobs (four million direct and six million indirect jobs) over the next ten years under the Sagarmala project. I take this opportunity to invite our ASEAN member countries to participate in these projects, given the success stories in several countries in the region.

The priority sectors for India’s maritime ecosystem include shipping, ports, Container Freight Stations (CFS)/Inland Container Depots (ICD) and Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ), road, rail and coastal connectivity, shipbuilding, investments, advisory, technology, training and leisure including cruise and lighthouse tourism.

Our Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is undertaking several programmes such as the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem project aimed at improving regional management of the Bay of Bengal environment and its fisheries thus improving the life of the coastal communities. Another project is the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project that has commenced in three states that aims to build national capacity for implementation of comprehensive coastal management approach in the country. The project focuses on conservation of coastal and marine resources, pollution management and improving livelihood opportunities for coastal communities. We would be happy to share some of our best practices and successes with ASEAN member countries.

Through the workshop today, we look forward to taking forward the progress made at the 1st Workshop through enriching discussions on various components of Blue Economy to include Connectivity, Technology and Maritime Safety and Diplomacy. I am optimistic that our discussions today will facilitate a better understanding of the subject as also a recognition of the need to identify and consolidate our cooperation in Blue Economy as an important pillar of ASEAN India Cooperation in the Maritime Domain.

Once again I extend a warm welcome to all distinguished guests and look forward to hearing your views during the course of the day.

Thank you.

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