H.E. Dr T.C.A Raghavan, Director-General, Indian Council of World Affairs,
H.E. Abdulnasser Alshaali, Director of Economic and Trade Affairs Department, United Arab Emirates, Chair of IORA
H.E. Dr Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General for Asia and Middle East, Republic of South Africa, Past Chair of IORA
H.E. P.S. Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board, Government of India
Ms Nutan Kapoor Mahavar, Joint Secretary, Indian Council of World Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocol observed
I would like to start by thanking the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of the Republic of India and the Indian Council of World Affairs for hosting this auspicious event in India’s beautiful Capital City of New Delhi. The hospitality extended to me and my delegation has been nothing short of exceptional, and our sincere gratitude goes to the Government of India and all those making the excellent arrangements.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here for this historic Dialogue: “Indo-Pacific: Re-imagining the Indian Ocean through an Expanded Geography”.
The Indian Ocean Dialogue is an important platform in IORA. It started as a stand-alone Dialogue and an open and free-flowing forum. It brought scholars and government officials on a single platform to help deepen discussions on the geostrategic significance of the Indian Ocean region. The need was felt to firstly identify and then address the very real challenges in the region which range from maritime security to the cross-cutting issues that have a global impact.
Now, the IOD is institutionalized and the sixth edition is the first IOD that takes place as a functional body of IORA listed in the IORA Charter. This is historic and indispensable in fostering progressive dialogues between academics and governments in the region. In fact, going a step further, the Dialogue is helping to evolve a common IORA perspective on dealing with the challenges facing the region.
IORA has reached great heights since its launch in 1997 and is now undergoing reform and revitalization. It has now 22 (twenty-two) Member States and ten (10) Dialogue Partners which are a critical mass. We are all committed to cooperation towards ensuring a peaceful and stable Indian Ocean region and consolidating our position as the apex regional organization in the Indian ocean.
Since its inception in 1997, it has expanded its primary focus on economic cooperation to now include focused priorities and cross-cutting issues.
IORA also has expanded and focused its institutional mechanisms through new working and core groups on its priority areas. Each technical group is developing its work plan on how to advance the objectives of the Association, both internally and with outside partners.
I believe that we are now in a position to look at a new perspective and a new vision to increase our visibility as well as make great strides in our commitment to ensure a better life for all our peoples sustainably.
I am of course referring to the Indo-Pacific concept. I note that more and more countries are assessing the Indo-Pacific concept and IORA must articulate its position on the concept in order to promote coordination in addressing the challenges facing our two oceans.
IORA has been discussing the Indo-Pacific concept for several years which has developed into a strategic discussion amongst senior official on how and where to locate IORA within the concept.
IORA Member States are of the view that this concept should not duplicate but reinforce existing architecture and habits of cooperation in the region. It should also seek to bolster regional cooperation and dialogue. To this end, the IOD provides an invaluable opportunity for us to:
Ladies and Gentlemen
On whatever approach or direction IORA could take, we need to ensure that it is aligned with the fundamental principles and objectives of the IORA Charter and supports the Jakarta Concord and its Action Plan through the work plans of the technical working groups.
Of importance is the need to strengthen our external alliances and partnerships for mutual benefit. In this regard IORA is looking to establish a meaningful dialogue with other countries in the Indo-Pacific to address common challenges such as climate change; accelerated technological change; management of oceanic resources sustainably; empowerment of the youth and women; and to promote sustainable and equitable growth and decent employment in the region - to name but a few.
We also recognize the need to enhance cooperation on Maritime Safety and Security in IORA, particularly through the establishment of a dedicated Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security (WGMSS). Strategically, the world’s key maritime chokepoints face the Indo-Pacific and cooperation in this area is crucial.
In conclusion we should also ensure that we adopt an inclusive approach towards expanding the Indian Ocean region focused on ensuring a better life for all its peoples. IORA must ensure that our engagement with the concept of the Indo-Pacific is based on openness, close cooperation and respect for international law, together with the centrality of IORA as one of the main nodes of development and cooperation.
I urge UAE, Chair of IORA and the leading Member States to play a vital role in guiding IORA’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific concept. Having the right regional architecture to negotiate that future is crucial to it becoming a reality.