Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs of India,
Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan, Acting Secretary General of IORA,
Distinguished Speakers and Participants,
It is a privilege for the Indian Council of World Affairs to host the 8th edition of the Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD), in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India. IOD is a track 1.5 initiative of IORA and India is hosting this important Dialogue for the third time.
2. The centrality of the Indian Ocean, to many great civilizations, is well known and, in the present 21st century, the Ocean continues with its ancient splendor and its importance. There is significant strategic and economic value attached to the Indian Ocean, which is one of the world’s busiest trade corridors with some of the most critical sea-lanes of communication for global commerce.
3. With its long and rich maritime heritage, an extensive coastline and numerous islands, the Indian Ocean occupies an important place in India’s thinking. Today, the Indian Ocean is one of the foremost priorities in India’s foreign policy.
4. Geopolitical realities have necessitated looking at the Indian Ocean in the context of the expanded geography of the Indo-Pacific where India’s vision stands for a ‘free, open, inclusive and rules-based region’ as stated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shangri-la Dialogue in 2018. This vision emphasizes respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the region, peaceful resolution of disputes, avoidance of use of or threat of use of force, and adherence to international laws.
5. India’s engagement with the littorals of the Indian Ocean is deep. India endeavours to strengthen relationships with its regional partners in a mutually cooperative manner under the vision of ‘SAGAR’ or ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region.’ This vision focuses on cooperative measures for sustainable use of oceans and provides a framework for a safe, secure, and stable maritime domain in the region. It envisages cooperation in trade, tourism, infrastructure, environment, blue economy and maritime security. This spirit was further enhanced under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced in 2019 as an open, non-treaty based, inclusive platform for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
6. IORA connects three continents: Asia, Africa and Australia, and binds a diverse set of countries in the Indian Ocean region in a sense of a regional maritime community and a shared maritime space. IORA plays an important role in institutionalizing engagements, strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. The IOD has been an important platform to encourage open and free-flowing discussion on a whole range of issues which confront the Indian Ocean region.
7. Covid-19 has been a big disrupter of the 21st century. The pandemic has tested the health infrastructure of countries across the world. It put the education sector everywhere under stress with physical classes being replaced by e-learning. It has changed the working of office environments across businesses. Global supply chains and maritime infrastructure have been adversely affected. In this backdrop, today’s Dialogue will deliberate on how IORA countries utilized digital technologies to deal with Covid-related disruptions and the lessons learnt for promoting cooperation.
8. We are pleased to have distinguished representatives of Governments, think tanks, and academia from various IORA member states participating in our Dialogue today. We look forward to fruitful deliberations.