Good morning from India.
I am Dr Nivedita Ray, Director Research at the Indian Council of World Affairs, India.
ICWA/India held the Chairmanship of Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG) from 2019-2021. As we come to the end of our tenure and hand over the Chairmanship to South Africa, it is my pleasure to take you through the major activities that have been undertaken by ICWA/India as the Chair in last two years.
6th Indian Ocean Dialogue
The ICWA in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India hosted the 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD), a track 1.5 flagship initiative of the IORA, on 13 December 2019 under the overarching theme ‘Indo-Pacific: Re-imagining the Indian Ocean through an Expanded Geography’. IORA Secretary General Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe delivered address at the inaugural session of the Dialogue. The valedictory address at the 6th IOD was delivered by Hon. External Affairs Minister of India Shri S Jaishakar and Minister of State of External Affairs of India Shri V. Muralidharan addressed the Dialogue.
The Dialogue comprised of three Plenary Sessions on the themes of Indo-Pacific: Seamless and Collective; Delivering Public Goods at Sea; and Maritime Connectivity and Infrastructure. The Dialogue was attended by over 100 participants including Government officials, policy makers, practitioners, academia and specialists belonging to the IORA Member States.
The focus of the deliberations at the 6th IOD was on developing a better understanding within IORA of Indo-Pacific, a formulation which is resonating across the globe and is viewed as a single strategic system for politico-diplomatic, economic and strategic engagements. The participants expressed the view at the 6th IOD that a rule-based order for the Indo-Pacific is necessary for a stable, secure and prosperous Indian Ocean; that the Indo-Pacific should be inclusive and open, and it should promote freedom of navigation so that sea lanes of communications remain open. The outcome document of the Dialogue titled ‘Delhi Consensus’ noted these issues.
The ICWA also published an edited volume of papers presented at the 6th IOD.
25th Meeting of the IORAG
As Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG), the ICWA steered the 25th Meeting of the IORAG held on 12 December 2019 in New Delhi. The issues under discussion were: “IUU Fishing: Regional Concerns and Response Strategies”, “Issues of Marine Litter and Debris” and “Harnessing Seas for Water Security”. These issues cut across domains of security, environment, and ecology, and are high on the agenda of the IORA and its Member States whose focus is on the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
The 25th IORAG meeting agreed that the Chair of Indian Ocean Studies (CIOS), in consultation with IORA Member States, would prepare Concept Notes on two of the themes deliberated at the meeting viz., IUU Fishing and Marine Litter and Debris as well as a picture compendium on Marine Litter and Debris in the Indian Ocean and Citizen Volunteer Groups Actions. This was done with contribution of Member States, including India/ICWA and the following finalized documents were circulated by the IORA Secretariat : ‘Concept Note on Marine Litter: Evolving Sustainable Mechanisms for IORA’, ‘Concept Note on IUU Fishing in IORA’; ‘Compendium on Citizen Volunteer Group Actions and a Mapping of Innovations in the field of Marine Litter’. These documents now represent IORA’s views on these issues as consolidated and facilitated by IORAG.
IORA Capacity Building Workshop on the 1982 UNCLOS
In pursuance of the 2019 Delhi Consensus (the outcome document of the 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue) and the IORA Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security (WGMSS) Work Plan, the ICWA in collaboration with the MEA and the IORA Secretariat, hosted a IORA Capacity Building Workshop on the 1982 UNCLOS on 29 January 2021. As many as 25 specialist speakers from 11 IORA Member States shared focused perspectives on four thematic issues under the 1982 UNCLOS, and nearly 200 participants from IORA Member States attended the Webinar. The participants expressed the view that the 1982 UNCLOS is a critical part of the rules-based international system and an essential component of global governance. It was noted that the IORA can be instrumental in promoting the development of legal capacities of the Member States and it should encourage States to develop national policy and legislative frameworks that uphold the internationally accepted rules-based order. In preparation for this Workshop, ICWA also organized National Consultations on 1982 UNCLOS: Issues of Safety, Security and Sustainable use of Ocean Resources in the Indian Ocean Region on 06 August 2020.
ICWA also published an edited volume titled 1982 UNCLOS: Perspectives from the Indian Ocean in 2021, a compendium of papers presented at the Workshop.
There have been discussions ongoing on the reform of the IORAG in the Sub-Committee on IORAG Reforms chaired by India. India/ICWA gave its comments on the draft Modalities and Terms of Reference and Work Plan circulated by the Secretariat. India chaired the meeting of the Sub-committee on 15 July 2021 and the meeting of the IORAG on 6 October 2021 and facilitated the process.
26th Meeting of the IORAG
ICWA/India chaired the 26th Meeting of IORAG on 06 October 2021, held virtually. At the meeting a brief report was presented, on the outcomes of 3rd IORAG Institutional Reform Sub-Committee meeting held on 15 July 2021. During the meeting two Interactive Sessions on the themes of “Financing Sustainable Blue Economy” and “Smart Ports and Digital Supply Chains” were also held.
8th Indian Ocean Dialogue 2021
ICWA in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India, India, hosted the 8th Indian Ocean Dialogue on 15th December 2021. The Dialogue was held virtually on the theme – Post Pandemic Indian Ocean: Leveraging Digital Technologies for Health, Education, Development and Trade in IORA Member States. The 8th IOD had a total of 19 speakers, constituting a multi-disciplinary group of academics, policy makers, diplomats, technology experts, naval analysts from member countries. Minister of State for External Affairs of India Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh delivered the Keynote address at the Dialogue. We were also pleased to have Acting Secretary General, IORA Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan, give an address at the Dialogue. Deliberations mainly focused on key themes divided into four sessions on Embracing e-Health to fight COVID-19, Investments in e-Education, Development through Digital Technologies and Digital Shipping, Smart Ports and Trade. The Secretariat is in the process of finalizing the report of the Dialogue.
ICWA was also honored to have Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, IORA Secretary General address its virtual International Conference on ‘Roads, Winds, Spices in the Western Indian Ocean: The Memory and Geopolitics of Maritime Heritage’ held on 6-7 July 2020, which focused on historical and cultural maritime exchanges in the Indian Ocean region, past connectivity and contemporary geopolitics.
ICWA/India as the IORAG Chair drafted a Call for Research Proposal and underlying Criteria for IORA-GIZ on “COVID-19 and Climate Change: Prospects for a “Blue” Recovery in the Indian Ocean Region”. The draft was circulated by the Secretariat to member states for their inputs. These have since been received and incorporated into the draft by the Secretariat.
These are some of the important activities undertaken by India/ICWA during its Chairmanship of the IORAG for 2019-2021. It is our pleasure to hand over the Chairmanship of IORAG to South Africa for 2021-2023. We assure the incoming Chair of our support and continued engagement.
We also wish to place on record our appreciation to the IORA Secretariat for all the support extended.