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Rajya Raksha Mantris statement at AU Summit

Rajya Raksha Mantri’s statement at AU Summit

[October 15, 2016; Lomé]

His Excellency Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, President of the Togolese Republic

Other Heads of State,

Distinguished delegates

I am honored to represent India at the African Union Summit on Maritime Security, Safety and Development. My delegation is grateful for the outstanding hospitality extended to us since our arrival yesterday. I would like to thank our host, Republic of Togo, for the excellent arrangement made for this conference.

India’s vision for partnership with Africa for the 21st Century builds on our   strong bilateral relationships with our African partners and envisages closer cooperation with the African Union. The wide ranging cooperation and development partnerships between India and Africa cover a broad spectrum of fields including Maritime Security, Safety and Development. India wholeheartedly supports the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and 2063 Vision of the African Union for Africa. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The oceans hold the key to the fortunes of a fast evolving global order. Oceans are the cradles of civilisations and a civilisation can only prosper when the seas which wash its shores are safe, secure and free for all. We all have seen the tragedy of tsunamis and cyclones. Terror has visited us from sea. We all feel the rising impact of climate change on our coasts and islands. We need to strengthen our cooperation efforts to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of maritime domain, which is a global common.

Collective action and cooperation is the way forward to deal with maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and natural disasters. This will also improve trust and confidence and reduce the scope for military competition. On its part, India has taken an active role in fighting piracy, both to our west and to our east. Since 2008, we have continued to conduct anti-piracy patrols in Gulf of Aden and other maritime routes. Indian Navy has undertaken nearly 50 anti-piracy escort missions.

India’s efforts have contributed clearly to greater maritime safety in the region.

India is not only committed to safeguarding its land & maritime territories and interests, but will also make its capacities available to other regional countries. Building on our experience of providing relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, we today have undertaken a wide range of HADR operations, from major evacuation efforts in Yemen to bringing drinking water to Maldives and providing relief supplies to Fiji, Sri Lanka and more recently to Madgascar.

Today, it is also incumbent on all of us to uphold and reaffirm the importance of maintaining the legal order for the seas and oceans, respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation and over flight rights as well as unimpeded commerce based on the universally recognized principles of international law, as reflected in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We believe that all related territorial and jurisdictional disputes should be resolved by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through negotiation in accordance with the principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

As we look beyond traditional security issues, a more integrated view of the Indian Ocean brings the proximate continents of Africa and Australia at its two ends much closer and India seeks a more cooperative and integrated future for the region and beyond through overall development of the ocean-based blue economy.

 Oceans cover 72 per cent of the surface of earth and constitute more than 95 per cent of the biosphere. Oceans provide a substantial portion of the global population with food and livelihood. Oceans are also the means of transport for 80 percent of global goods trade. Marine and coastal environments attract tourists and help create jobs. The seabed currently provides 32 percent of the global supply of hydrocarbons with current exploration efforts slated to expand this further. Emerging technologies are opening up new frontiers of marine resource development leading to mining of seabed mineral resources. Oceans also have massive potential for production of renewable energy.

The importance of Oceans for sustainable development has been recognised by the UN in Rio+ 20 held in 2012. It is important that, the ongoing trends of economic exploitation of the marine ecosystems go hand in hand with intensified efforts to ensure sustainability of our oceanic resources.

The blue economy framework needs to address equity in access, development and sharing of marine resources. Efficiency and optimisation of resources along with de-coupling of economic development from environmental degradation are of paramount importance.

20 per cent of the world’s coral reefs have been estimated to be lost and another 20 per cent to have been degraded. Mangroves have been reduced to 30-50 per cent of their historical cover and that 29 per cent of sea-grass have disappeared since the late 1800s. Protection, restoration and ensuring sustainability of such resources are of paramount importance and must be based on appropriate standards and distribution of the resources among various countries for protection as well as for sustainable use.

Globally 350 million jobs are estimated to be linked to marine fisheries and 90 per cent of these jobs are in developing countries. Value of fish traded by developing countries is estimated at US$ 25 billion, making it one of their largest trade items. There is a need for ensuring exploitation of fishing resources in a sustainable as well as just and equitable manner.

Excellencies, ladies & gentlemen,

 Implemented in a responsible and sustained manner, the Blue Economy presents vast opportunities for growth and development.

Prime Minister Modi’s vision for the Indian Ocean as captured in the acronym SAGAR or Security and Growth for All in the Region encapsulates our approach to the maritime domain

As mentioned earlier, 80 per cent of global trade and over 70 per cent by value is carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide. Global container traffic is expected to triple by the year 2030. In this context, India has launched the Sagarmala Project whose prime objective is to promote port-led direct and indirect development and to provide infrastructure to transport goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. The Sagarmala Project aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions, enhanced connectivity with main economic centers and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services. We will be happy to partner Africa in harnessing the potential of the Blue Economy. In particular we are ready to supplement AU efforts:

  • To deal with piracy, terrorism and other crimes;
  • to marine safety and natural disasters;
  • Promote greater collaboration in trade, tourism and investment;
  • Develop infrastructure;
  • Promote marine science and technology;
  • Promote sustainable fisheries; and,
  • Protection of the marine environment;

I would like to conclude by complementing the AU leadership for its wisdom and farsightedness in hosting this Summit. Indian and African civilizations were forged together by the same geographies. The Indian Ocean only seemingly put us apart, it has and will always be the bridge connecting us together.

15th October 2016



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