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“India, ASEAN cooperation will be key facilitator for growth of Indo-Pacific region”

Addressing the second ASEAN-India workshop on blue economy, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Preeti Saran, said for civilisations such that of India and ASEAN countries to prosper, it was important that they strengthen cooperation to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of the maritime domain.

“It is this reality that led our prime minister to highlight the importance that we attach to the subject of ASEAN-India Cooperation in the Maritime Domain since we believe that it will be a key facilitator for growth and development of the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

Saran said oceans hold the key to the fortunes of the fast evolving global order as they cover 72 per cent of the Earth’s surface, constitute over 95 per cent of the biosphere and provide a substantial portion of the world’s population with food and livelihood. 

Emerging technologies are opening up new frontiers of marine resource development, leading, among other things, to the mining of seabed mineral resources, Saran noted.

She recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reaffirmed this aspect in his address at the Shangri La Dialogue on June 1 in Singapore, when he had said, “oceans holds the key to our future”. 

Observing that there are many facets to this cooperation, Saran said an important element is that of maritime connectivity.

“This is important since our region has been witnessing a steadily expanding commercial and subsistence activities at sea relating to trade and transportation, resource exploitation and the leisure industry. 

“Enhanced maritime connectivity would therefore provide lower logistic costs, and motivate increased trade in goods and services,” she said. “We are working together for an early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport between ASEAN and India and are exploring maritime cargo routes/coastal shipping services between us.” 

Asserting that blue economy was one of the most important and key areas of cooperation, Saran said that harnessing marine resources for economic and social development, in a sustainable manner, without undermining these finite natural resources, was imperative.

She said the Indian government stands committed to promoting the Blue Economy. “Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about it on several occasions at national and international levels. He observed: ‘To me the Blue Chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy’. That is how central the ocean economy is to us,” Saran said.

The workshop came ahead of the 10th edition of the Delhi Dialogue that will be hosted by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj from July 19-20.

The Delhi Dialogue is a premier annual track 1.5 event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between India and ASEAN.

The theme of the dialogue this year is ‘Strengthening India-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation’. This is the first major event to be organised after the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, that was held in New Delhi in January 2018.

Chief ministers from the north-eastern states have also been invited to participate in the dialogue. The ASEAN grouping comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. 

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