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Prosperous Indo-Pacific hinges on peaceful maritime domain: Navy Chief

NEW DELHI (PTI): A prosperous Indo-Pacific hinges on a peaceful maritime domain, and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) holds immense potential for synchronising and synergising the collective efforts towards achieving it, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar has said.

In his address at the fourth edition of Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) in New Delhi on Wednesday, he also said maritime terrorism and proliferation of advanced technologies have "further complicated the security matrix".

The IPRD is an apex-level international annual conference of the Indian Navy that seeks to foster exchange of ideas and promote deliberations on regionally relevant maritime issues.

The theme of IPRD-2022, being held from November 23-25, is "Operationalising the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)", which was articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It is amply clear that a prosperous Indo-Pacific hinges on a peaceful maritime domain. The maritime security pillar of the IPOI seeks to manage this crucial element through cooperative engagement between friends and partners," the Navy Chief said.

In this, the Indian Navy has been guided by the inclusive vision of SAGAR which literally means oceans, and expands as 'Security and Growth for All in the Region', and is underpinned by the values of 5 Ses – 'Samman' (Respect), 'Samvaad' (Dialogue), 'Shanti' (Peace), 'Samriddhi' (or Prosperity) and notably, 'Sahyog' (or Cooperation) – he said.

"The current edition of the IPRD has chosen an apt theme – 'Operationalising the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative', and I am convinced that the collective wisdom in the Dialogue will bring about practical and result-oriented options to take this transformative initiative forward. In doing so, I believe that we need to address three predominant and interlinked sectors, namely security, economy and environment," Admiral Kumar said.

Talking about the security environment in general, and maritime security in particular, he said while the possibility of a traditional inter-state conflict cannot be ruled out, there is an increased risk to the rules-based order emanating from disputes of jurisdiction, undermining of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), piracy and armed robbery, illegal human migration, drugs and arms trafficking, and illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.

"Maritime terrorism and proliferation of advanced technologies have further complicated the security matrix. Inevitably, given its increased centrality in global affairs, the Region has witnessed increased presence of maritime security forces from a multitude of nations – regional as well as extra-regional," the Navy chief added.
The Ministry of Defence in a statement later said Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt delivered the keynote address at the event.

India is well prepared to address threats in the current and emerging maritime domain, the Minister said.

He emphasised the need to build other aspects of India's maritime capability, such as the merchant marine, ports, and the capability for sustainable management of the nation's oceanic resources, in addition to bolstering military capabilities.

Bhatt also laid particular stress upon rebuilding India's maritime traditions and strengthening maritime orientation among the people of the country, and reiterated the nation's deep commitment to inclusivity and international cooperation in every field of human endeavour.

The Minister also released a book titled, 'Hard-Security Perspectives in India's Maritime Neighbourhood', published by the National Maritime Foundation.

The IPRD is an apex-level international annual conference of the Navy and the principal manifestation of the Navy's engagement at the strategic level.

The National Maritime Foundation (NMF) is the Navy's knowledge partner and chief organiser of each edition of the event.

The Navy Chief said the Indo-Pacific today represents a "strategic geography where most of us have found convergence in our interests and aspirations". However, in navigating the path together, there are numerous challenges that must be overcome. Admiral Kumar said these challenges could be viewed as a "trinity of '3 Is' – imperatives at home, influences from outside and some intrusive paradigms".

"These challenges are not unique to India, or for that matter any other nation in the region. We also recognise that these challenges cannot be overcome by one nation alone. Accordingly, the Indo-Pacific Region has witnessed formulation of numerous bilateral, multilateral and plurilateral mechanisms – most of which seek a safe, secure and stable Indo-Pacific. This common goal also brings possibilities to converge and collaborate. To this end, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) provides an opportunity to synchronise, synergise and channelise our collective efforts," he said.

"Speaking of the IPOI, to my mind, it represents the broadest framework conceptualised so far in the Indo-Pacific," the Navy chief said.

It is guided by India's vision of the Indo-Pacific that is a "free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Region", and reflects India's civilisational ethos of pluralism, co-existence, openness and dialogue, he said. Being a global open initiative, IPOI affords equal opportunity to every stakeholder and respects their sovereignty and freedom of choice.

The IPOI is not aimed at creating new institutions, rather seeks to leverage existing mechanisms by drawing convergences and identifying areas of mutual interest, the Navy Chief added.

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