Ambassador Meera Shankar delivered the inaugural address at the annual roundtable organized today by the Center for Naval Analyses, USA and the National Maritime Foundation of India. This was the second such roundtable. The first roundtable was organized in New Delhi earlier this year. The theme of this roundtable was “Major Powers and the Indian Ocean Region (IO): Interests, Implications and Policy Responses”.
2. In her address, the Ambassador highlighted that maritime trade routes in the Indian Ocean were vital for “global trade and global energy security”. One fifth of the world’s energy supplies travelled across the Indian Ocean and major trade routes passed through it. She also underscored that the Indian Ocean would continue to be “crucial for India’s growth”. At present most of India’s energy supplies and more than 70% of its external trade by value was carried through these sea lanes. These figures were only likely to increase as India continued on its high economic growth trajectory.
3. Ambassador Shankar observed that the Indian Ocean region represented a diverse set of countries – from the fastest growing economies of the world to others who faced severe challenges. Most of the security challenges that the global community was facing today, be it terrorism fuelled by extremist ideologies, piracy or transnational crimes, could be found in this region. The region was also at the centre of the shifts in the global balances of power. It was in this overall context that the issue of maritime security assumed importance.
4. It was also clear that the issue of maritime security could not be addressed by any one country alone. Ambassador emphasized that what was required was development of an “architecture of maritime security based on the principles of shared security and shared prosperity”. She said that since it was in the interest of all countries to have stability of the Sea Lanes of Communication in the Indian Ocean Region, we could look at “initiating a discussion with all stake holders to develop a suitable framework for enhancing maritime security in the region and beyond”. India believed that the “evolution of a stable, open, inclusive and balanced security and cooperation architecture based on broad consensus of all the powers who have a presence in the region and can contribute to enhancing security” would be in everyone’s interest and India and the US as two leading maritime powers in the region could work together for this objective.
5. Ambassador referred to the Joint Statement issued during the recent visit of President Obama to India wherein the two countries had agreed that the stability of and access to, global commons including in the maritime domain was vital for their security and economic prosperity; and had committed to work together, and with others in the region towards this. While noting the suggestions in some quarters that these shifts might lead to greater competition in the region, Ambassador stressed that this did not imply that a paradigm of security based on competition was inevitable. Instead she underscored that the challenge was to harness in a positive way the shifts that were underway for development of a more cooperative framework.