Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday flagged the threat of sea-borne terror and piracy as two key challenges to maritime security and pitched for respecting freedom of navigation against the backdrop of South China sea dispute.
In an apparent reference to the audacious 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Modi said, the threat of sea-borne terror, of which India has been a direct victim, continues to endanger regional and global peace and stability.
He said piracy, too, remains a strong challenge against the backdrop of Somali pirates targeting merchant vessels, including those of India.
Addressing the valedictory function of International Fleet Review, the Prime Minister also made a veiled reference to the South China Sea dispute, saying countries must “respect and ensure freedom of navigation and cooperate not compete”.
He said after hosting the 3rd India-Africa Summit and the India-Pacific Island Cooperation, the country would now host the first-ever global maritime summit in April.
Referring to his government’s ambitious Make in India initiative, Modi said 37 of the Indian warships participating the Fleet Review were made in India and their numbers will surely rise.
He said the nation’s ability to reap economic benefits from the oceans rested on our capacity to respond to the challenges in the maritime domain.
“The threat of natural disasters like tsunami and cyclones is ever present. Man-made problems such as oil spills, climate change continue to risk the stability of the maritime domain,” the Prime minister said.
He said a peaceful and stable maritime environment is critical for regional and global security.
“It is also must to harvest the riches of the oceanic ecosystems,” the PM said.
Modi said India’s 1200 island territories, and its huge Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.4 million sq km makes clear the economic significance of the Indian Ocean.
“For us, it also serves as a strategic bridge with the nations in our immediate and extended maritime neighbourhood. In March last year in Mauritius, I had spelt out our vision for the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean Region is one of my foremost policy priorities. Our approach is evident in our vision of ‘sagar’, which means ocean and stands for Security And Growth for All in the Region,” he said.
He said India would continue to actively pursue and promote its geo-political, strategic and economic interests on the seas, in particular the Indian Ocean.
“To this end, India’s modern and multi-dimensional Navy leads from the front. It is a force for peace and good. A network of growing political and economic maritime partnerships, and strengthening of regional frameworks also helps us pursue our goals,” he said.
Modi recalled that the last time India hosted the International Fleet Review was in the year 2001 in the city of Mumbai.
“The world of 2016 is vastly different. Its politics is turbulent, and its challenges complex. At the same time, the oceans are the lifelines of global prosperity. They present us with great economic opportunities to build our nations,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that over 90% of global merchandise trade is carried on the oceans.
He said over the last 15 years, its value has grown from about six trillion dollars to about $ 20 trillion.
Referring to the economy of crude, he said oceans are critical for global energy security as over 60 per cent of world’s oil production moves through sea routes.
Given the scale and complexity of modern-day challenges, international maritime stability cannot be the preserve of single nation, he said, adding it has to be a shared goal and responsibility of all seafaring countries.
“To this end, the navies and maritime agencies need to work together and engineer virtual cycles of cooperation.
“But where necessary, they also need to act to secure the international sea lanes of communication.”
As oceans today propel our economies, we must use seas to build peace, friendship and trust and curb conflict, he said addressing the gathering.
Our “Skill India” programme is building institutions that train, support, encourage and guide our 800 million youth to the path of entrepreneurship.
He said an important part of India’s transformation is his vision of blue economy. “The blue Chakra, the wheel in our national flag, represents the potential of the blue economy. An essential part of this pursuit is the development of India’s coastal and island territories but not just for tourism.
“We want to build new pillars of economic activity in the coastal areas and in linked hinterlands through sustainable tapping of oceanic resources,” he said.
Terming the youth in the coastal areas as country’s “true assets”, he said they have a natural and deep understanding of the oceans.
“They could lead the way in the development of blue economy in India. In partnership with all the coastal states of India, I want to shape a special programme of skilling India’s youth in the coastal areas of the country,” Modi said.
Chief Justice of India Justice TS Thakur, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Manohar Parrikar were also present on the occasion where the PM released a photo essay book ‘Maritime Heritage of India’.