Indian Ocean security a must for nations to prosper – FM

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Saturday said that the security of the Indian Ocean remains paramount for our nations to prosper.

“Our maritime Economy has great potential. Especially in the new “Green-Blue” Economic policies. One such area is the untapped renewable power generation in the ocean waters”, the Foreign Minister said.

He said that larger partners in our region are equipped with assets to provide rapid response in natural and maritime emergencies.

“I must take this opportunity to congratulate the Naval and Coast Guard Forces of India and Sri Lanka for their timely and gallant action when the fire broke out in Oil Tanker MV New Diamond in September within Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.”

The Foreign Minister was addressing the fourth NSA Level Trilateral Meeting on Maritime Cooperation on Saturday in Colombo.

Our national priorities demand of us to collaborate in order to ensure our collective security and wellbeing. As littoral States, the Indian Ocean holds a vital conduit for our prosperity and as some have said, it may well define the destiny of the planet in the 21st century. This forum provides us with a valuable platform to pursue these goals.

Our Security is not limited to physical security and consequent regional stability, but also encompasses nontraditional security challenges including threats to marine environment. Over exploitation of ocean-based living and natural resources, pollution, threats posed by oil spills and chemicals, acidification of the seas and sea-level rise are also among our concerns.

The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest, it commands 60% of the world’s GDP; sees 80% of the world’s ship borne energy transport through its oceans and; facilitates 46% of the world’s merchandise trade. Fifty five percent (55%) of the world’s container traffic ply through these oceans. As littoral states located in the key parts of the Indian Ocean. Maritime security remains one of our highest priorities amidst increasingly busy international sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.

As it is to all of you, Sri Lanka sees the opportunities the Indian Ocean holds. With these opportunities comes responsibilities to our people, to the region and the world at large. Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is a founding pillar of our engagement. We see the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in our seas and air space and protecting sea lines of communication and the undersea cables. We believe all countries should adhere to and respect international law, including the UN Convention on Law of the Sea [UNCLOS].

My country’s focus on the Indian Ocean stability has been longstanding. Apart from our seminal role in successfully chairing the negotiations of the UNCLOS which came into effect in 1982.Sri Lanka along with likeminded NAM countries moved a Resolution at the 26th United Nations General Assembly in 1971 which resulted in the adoption of resolution calling for establishment of the “Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace.”

Our maritime Economy has great potential. Especially in the new “Green-Blue” Economic policies. One such area is the untapped renewable power generation in the ocean waters.

Two seasons of Monsoon winds certainly guarantee an immense potential. We must harness and secure these environmental friendly modes for our regional growth as well as in a Climate friendly manner.

Our Security apparatus are professional and well trained, but the sheer vastness of the Indian Ocean makes it very challenging for our Naval Forces to entirely curb illegal activities. Particularly in the context of unrestricted economic activities and free movements of various illegal activities such as human, drugs, arms.

Enhanced cooperation and information sharing on such illegal activities between our Navies and Coastguard will be crucial through this ongoing dialogue.

Future potential of our region’s technological growth is absolutely promising. The present success in the IT sector is a very good indicator, as this means a much more greater amount of exchange in Data, back and forth.

Every single bit of Data that travels through physical lines underwater and in the air above our ocean. In economic sense this can easily generate a new economy with greater source of revenue similar to shipping lanes of present day.

We owe deep gratitude for the visionary leadership and foresight of three key personalities from India, Maldives and Sri Lanka who fathered the initiative with its first meeting in October 2011.

As the co-founder from Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was the then Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, remains deeply committed to this day to the goals that we pursue under this dialogue.

While benefiting from maritime economic activities of such high magnitude, security of the Indian Ocean remains paramount for our nations to prosper.

I must therefore take this opportunity to remind all stakeholders that our common success will be shaped and defined by the joint action you together take at this forum.


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