Indian Ocean must be approached with empathy, not as a business: Foreign Secretary
Colombo [Sri Lanka], September 1 : Foreign Secretary Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Friday said Indian Ocean must be approached with empathy, not as a business.While addressing the Second Indian Ocean Conference here, Jaishankar said, "The Indian Ocean must be approached with empathy, not as a business. It must be treated as a partner, not as an arena. The goal must be inter-dependence, not dominance. The Indian Ocean is renewing its status as a zone of encounters and cross-roads of culture."
The Foreign Secretary further said India is ensuring the safety and security of maritime traffic through the Indian Ocean by strengthening skills and logistics of its southern neighbours like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles.
"The time has come for us to devote more energies and attention to a greater understanding of maritime activities and cultures and not regard them simply as an adjunct to the littoral," he said.
Referring to the aspects highlighted by Sri Lankan Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe about the Indian Ocean history, Jaishankar said, "If we are to revive a sharper sense of its own identity, it is important to appreciate and foster this multi-chromatic picture of the Indian Ocean."
He further added that the case for investing more effort into the revival of the identity and community of the Indian Ocean is now gathering greater support.
"It could be said that our collective presence at Colombo is itself an affirmation of those objectives. There are a number of reasons that explain this trend."
He exhorted the Commonwealth countries to collaborate to strengthen capacities in the Indian Ocean region.
"This region boasts of established regional organizations, foremost among them being the ASEAN. The GCC in the Gulf, SADC in Africa or the BIMSTEC in Bay of Bengal can each make their contribution felt towards a larger cause. In fact, it could even be contemplated that larger global organizations like the Commonwealth could collaborate to strengthen capacities in the Indian Ocean region."
Mentioning on how the possibilities of connectivity unfold in Asia, the Foreign Secretary said, "There are today various approaches and initiatives that offer choices to the nations of this region. Many would understandably like to make the best of all these opportunities. But, the experiences of the last decade underline the importance of making mature and considered decisions in this regard."
Foreign Secretary said, "India is today devoting greater resources and energy and assigning greater priority to building connectivity, contacts and cooperation at the heart of its Neighbourhood First policy.
Foreign Secretary also highlighted India's development assistance to Africa, saying the India-Africa story has similarly not got the attention it deserves, partly because it does not play to the gallery.
"In 2011, we had proposed at the 11th Council of Ministers Meeting at Bengaluru that cooperation focus on maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk management, academics and S and T, and tourism and cultural exchange," the Foreign Secretary added.
Jaishankar ensured that initiatives announced at the 2016 Bali COM meeting are expeditiously implemented.
India Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank in collaboration with Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore, and National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS), Colombo is organizing the Indian Ocean Conference 2017.