H.E Ambassador P.S. Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board, Government of India
HE Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association
HE Mr Abdulnasser Alshaali, Director of Economic and Trade Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates
Ms Nutan Kapoor Mahawar, Joint Secretary, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi
Excellencies, participants, honored guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege for the Indian Council of World Affairs to be associated as the knowledge partner of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India for the sixth edition of the Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD VI) titled "Indo-Pacific: Re-imagining the Indian Ocean through an Expanded Geography".
Let me begin with a few words about the Indian Council of World Affairs. The Council was set up in 1943 even before India gained Independence from Britain. It was set up by a somewhat unique group of public intellectuals who consciously focused their endeavours to two related themes. Firstly India needed an independent perspective on global affairs and secondly that an Indian perspective had also to be part of a regional and global narrative. These two broad impulses continue to guide us today.
From its inception the ICWA has had an enduring interest in the seas and oceans surrounding us and the Indian Ocean and its littoral has therefore been an important subject of Council's academic and policy deliberations. Many of our earliest publications thus focussed also on the endeavour of creating an Indian Ocean Community – which I believe is the task which is also the principal aim of the IORA. Although the IORA has members from three separate geographies namely; Asia, Africa and Australia, it is nevertheless bound together by the notion of a maritime community and a shared maritime space. The seas and oceans as is well-known have no borders but are the spaces that demonstrate the truest seamless connectivities.
Today in India we find the maritime asserting and reasserting itself as a vital part of our external policy. Thus a new equibalance between the continental and the maritime has been in the recent past and so will remain in the future an essential characteristic of Indian foreign policy. For a think tank such as ours to be part of this process – and India's membership of the IORA is a vital part of the larger process in India of the maritime moving to the centrestage – is therefore a matter of gratification.
The IORA is a true example of a holistic approach combining State to State as well as academic and business level interaction. In India as our economy changes, and as our society evolves the realization grows that just as the Indian Ocean shaped much of our history, it now also holds the key to our future. These were the words our Prime Minsiter used in Singapore about two-and-a-half years ago.
External relations in the widest possible canvas, stressing commonality of interests and being realistic about potential differences is therefore vital for our future development. It was in this context that the theme of the VIth IOD was framed. Indo Pacific: Re-imagining the Indian Ocean through an expanded geography. Obviously with such a vide canvas there could be several issues concerning the Indian Ocean and its littoral that span the political-diplomatic-strategic-ecological-environmental continuum, and could have meritted our attention. Not all can be debated and discussed in just one day; but we identified three issues for deliberations today. These are (a) Indo-Pacific: Seamless and Collective; (b) Maritime Connectivity and Infrastructure; and (c) Delivering Public Goods at Sea.
We are looking forward to hearing perspectives from the participants on each of these themes and we believe that these would be very useful in discussing and analyzing the Indian Ocean region. We are delighted that representatives across the cross-section of the Indian Ocean region are gathered here today. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to your collective as also individual engagement with us in the Indian Council of World Affairs. May I again also welcome you most warmly to Delhi and to India and hope you have a pleasant stay.