It is a great honour to commission the Barracuda today in the service of the National Coast Guard of Mauritius. This ship has made a long journey — from Kolkata across the great arc of the Indian Ocean to this beautiful shore. Generations ago, people from India charted that course to a new destination and a new life. [Barracuda] is a symbol of our shared commitment to peace and security in the Indian Ocean — our common maritime home.
The Indian Ocean is critical to the future of the world. This ocean bears two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments, one-third of its bulk cargo, and half of its container traffic. Over three-fourths of its traffic goes to other regions of the world. The vast Indian Ocean Region hosts over 40 states and nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population. Today, the world speaks of a 21st century driven by the dynamism and energy of Asia and the Pacific. But its course will be determined by the tides of the Indian Ocean. This is why the Indian Ocean is at the centre of global attention more than ever before. We also see growing global stakes and presence in the ocean. And we will all prosper when the seas are safe, secure and free for all. To ensure this will be our greatest collective responsibility. But we will also have to rise to other challenges that are not uncommon in our region.
India is at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean. Since Lothal in Gujarat became one of the earliest seaports in the world, India has had a long maritime tradition. Our cultural footprints stretch across Asia and Africa. We see this in our strong diaspora across oceans. The seas forged links of commerce, culture, and religion with our extended neighbourhood across several millennia. Our more recent history has focused our attention on our continental neighborhood. But India has been shaped in more ways by the seas around us. We will be more dependent than before on the ocean and its surrounding regions. We must also assume the responsibility to shape its future. So, the Indian Ocean Region is at the top of our policy priorities.
Our vision for the Indian Ocean Region is rooted in advancing cooperation in our region and in using our capabilities for the benefit of all in our common maritime home. This means many things. One, we will do everything to safeguard our mainland and islands and defend our interests. Equally, we will work to ensure a safe, secure and stable Indian Ocean Region that delivers us all to the shores of prosperity. And our capabilities will be there for those struck by the ocean’s fury or caught in distress on the seas.
Two, we will deepen our economic and security cooperation with our friends in the region, especially our maritime neighbours and island states. We will also continue to build their maritime security capacities and economic strength.
Three, collective action and cooperation will best advance peace and security in our maritime region. It will also prepare us to better respond to emergencies. That is why, in 2008, India promoted the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. Today, it brings together 35 navies of the region. Our goal is to deepen mutual understanding on maritime challenges and strengthen our collective ability to address them. We also support efforts to strengthen our regional mechanisms for maritime cooperation — from dealing with piracy, terrorism and other crimes to marine safety and natural disasters. India has also started maritime security cooperation with the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and we hope that Mauritius, Seychelles and other nations in the region will join this initiative.
Four, we also seek a more integrated and cooperative future in the region that enhances the prospects for sustainable development for all. We must promote greater collaboration in trade, tourism and investment; infrastructure development; marine science and technology; sustainable fisheries; protection of marine environment; and the overall development of ocean or blue economy.
To me, the blue chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of the “blue revolution”, or the “ocean economy”. For those who live by the ocean, climate change is not an issue of debate but a serious threat to existence. We must assume leadership in our region and call for more concerted and fairer global action to address the challenge of climate change. Our Indian Ocean Rim Association can be an important instrument for pursuing our vision for a sustainable and prosperous future. We often define regional groupings around landmass. The time has come for a strong grouping around the Indian Ocean. We will pursue this with new vigour in the years ahead.
Five, those who live in this region have the primary responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean. But we recognise that there are other nations around the world with strong interests and stakes in the region. India is deeply engaged with them.
We do this through dialogue, visits, exercises, capacity-building and economic partnership.
Our goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other’s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation. We seek a future for the Indian Ocean that lives up to the name of Sagar — Security and Growth for All in the Region.