Dr. Sanjaya Baru, distinguished journalist, author and member of ICWA’s Governing Body,
Ambassador Ashok Kantha and Anup Mudgal,
Distinguished Panellists, Guests, and ladies, and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the web-based seminar on “India and Island States in the Indian Ocean: Evolving Geopolitics and Security Perspectives”.
In the last few years, ICWA has focused a great deal on the strategic affairs of the Indian Ocean and the wider Indo-Pacific region.
We have hosted major national as well as international conferences, published several books and articles dealing with maritime issues. This seminar is part of that process and an attempt to focus on strategic perspectives from the Island States of the Western Indian Ocean.
In the Indian Ocean geopolitics, the concerns and issues of smaller Island states are often not deliberated upon even though they are strategically located in the sea lanes of communication and have critical importance in any discussion on maritime safety and security on building blue economies, enhancing maritime connectivity and building partnerships for sustainable ocean development.
Experts from India and the countries that are participating in the seminar belong to the region of the Indian Ocean where geopolitics is shaped by traditional as well as non-traditional security issues. Also, extra-regional powers are seeking to establish a foothold in the region. Their growing presence presents a new challenge to regional security and stability.
India has traditionally close and friendly relations with the Island States of the Indian Ocean and has built strong political, economic, developmental and people-to-people ties with them.
In the recent years, India has been vigorously engaging with the Indian Ocean Island States as part of its SAGAR (i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region) initiative.
As “first responder” during humanitarian crisis, India has extended assistance, be it the Tsunami of 2004 or the medical assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of its “Mission Sagar”.
As a resident nation, India has “shared concerns” about ensuring security in the region in face of threats - whether piracy or terrorism and understands the need for Island nations to build their defence and security infrastructure. In this context, India has extended Lines of Credit for defence and has gifted military equipment such as Dornier aircraft to enhance the maritime security capacity of the Island States.
We have also worked together in regional organizations, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) for managing the strategic dynamics of Indian Ocean. We need to strengthen these processes.
In the webinar we will attempt to understand.
I look forward to fruitful discussions. I thank you all for accepting our invitation and joining us today.