Distinguished delegates from EAS Participating Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- It gives me great pleasure to be with you at the inaugural session of this Conference. I look forward to discussions on how to shape a secure and conducive maritime environment in the interest of all nations participating in the East Asia Summit.
- Maritime Cooperation has emerged as a significant priority area of cooperation in the East Asia Summit. The Leaders would be adopting a statement on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation in the Asia Pacific at the 10th East Asia Summit on 22 November 2015.
- It is important that we discuss, analyse and put together the various components that would help us to strengthen cooperation among EAS participating countries in the maritime domain. It is apt therefore that this Conference would witness discussions on maritime issues as diverse as perspectives on maritime domain, maritime security concerns in the Asia Pacific region, blue economy, ways to promote conducive environment for maritime investments et al.
- I also want to emphasise the word "Cooperation” in the title of the Conference; our emphasis is thus on a cooperative approach to security, seen from a wide lens.
- 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 are safe, secure and free for all. We 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. East Asia Summit participating countries need to strengthen their cooperation efforts to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of maritime domain, which is a global common.
- For cooperation to be effective, we need to resolve outstanding maritime disputes in the Asia Pacific region expeditiously through dialogue and on the basis of accepted principles of international law.
- India opposes any use of force or threat to use force, to resolve maritime disputes and we remain committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in international waters, the right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with recognized principles of international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- We have recently resolved, peacefully, a dispute over delimitation of our maritime boundary with Bangladesh, in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of Sea. In fact, many of our maritime boundaries were settled even before the UNCLOS came into being on the basis of internationally accepted principles of maritime law. We hope that our example would encourage parties involved in ongoing maritime disputes to resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations in accordance with international laws.
- India has also joined other EAS participants in urging that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea region abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, ensure its effective implementation, and work together to ensure a peaceful resolution of disputes. We also hope that the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea would be concluded at an early date by consensus.
- Ladies and gentlemen, ensuring a safe, secure and stable Asia Pacific maritime region would deliver us all to the shores of prosperity. It would help us realise our Prime Minister’s vision of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.
- We are seeking a more cooperative and integrated future for the region through overall development of the ocean-based blue economy.
- As we are aware, 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 livelihoods. Oceans are also the means of transport for 80 per cent of global goods trade. Marine and coastal environment attract tourist and helps a developing tourism industry. The seabed currently provides 32 per cent of the global supply of hydrocarbons with explorations expanding. 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. However, the ongoing trends of exploitation and degradation of the marine ecosystem demand intensified efforts to ensure sustainability of 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.
- Over exploitation of marine fish stocks have increased from 10 per cent in 1974 to 32 per cent in 2008 according to Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Aquaculture is a fast growing food sector which provides 47 per cent of the fish for human consumption globally. If not managed properly, this may potentially impact biodiversity due to excessive nutrient release and chemical pollution. Even though the catch of fish at the global level increased from 16.7 million tonnes in 1950 to 86.7 million tonnes in 2000, human activity has directly reduced ocean productivity and exposed the oceanic resources to adverse impact of climate change.
- Moreover, implemented in a responsible and sustained manner, the Blue Economy presents vast opportunities for growth and development.
- 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 would be launching 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 shall aim 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.
- 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.
- I welcome views on ensuring exploitation of fishing resources in a sustainable as well as just and equitable manner, from the participants.
- In conclusion, 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. 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 the Ocean or Blue Economy.
- I am sure this Conference will advance this goal and I look forward to seeing the blue print on EAS maritime security and cooperation.
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