Statement by Hon. Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Fourth Indian Ocean Conference
(Male, September 3, 2019)
His Excellency Mr. Ahmad Ali Al Sayegh, Minister for Economic Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates,
His Excellency Mr. Tandi Dorji, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan,
His Excellency M. Joaquim Jose Gusmao dos Reis Martines, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Timor Leste,
Shri Madhav Rao and other Distinguished Members of the Organizing Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Namaskar and good evening!
I have the great honour and privilege to address this Fourth Indian Ocean conference being held in this beautiful friendly country, the Maldives.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government of the Maldives, the India Foundation and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, for organizing this Conference and inviting me to be a part of this important event.
The theme of the conference, Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges, is highly relevant in view of the great significance of the Indian ocean and its security.
The organizers deserve appreciation for creating such a prominent platform for deliberations on the theme of common interest.
I am here today bringing the best wishes of the people of the Land of Sagarmatha (the Mount Everest), the highest place on the earth, to the people of the deep Sagar (the Indian Ocean).
We all are aware of the glory and magnificence of the Indian Ocean. This Ocean is the source of nourishment to a great number of human beings, animals and plants. It is also a bedrock for the development of great civilizations, cultures, and dynamic commercial and economic activities.
The vast ocean sprawling from Australia in the East to the Arabian Gulf to South Africa is replete with precious resources of one sort or the other.
It is an important passage for internal trade, as a large portion of such trade from the Pacific to the Atlantic and, in between them, passes through this region.
It is the route for trade of more than half of the world’s sea-borne oil, accommodating 23 of the world’s top 100 container ports facilitating one third of the global trade.
Likewise, 36 littorals and 14 adjacent hinterland states are related to the Indian Ocean, making more than 35% of the world’s population dependent on it. Thus, there is an inextricable linkage of these countries with this Ocean.
A large portion of the resources of the Indian Ocean region is yet to be explored. It is said that 16.8% of the world’s oil reserves and 27.9% of natural gas reserves find home in it. The abundance of huge resources has not only sustained life but also incessantly propelled trade and economic growth in the region.
Despite being a landlocked country, the major share of Nepal’s export and import trade is directly or indirectly dependent on transit through the Indian Ocean.
With the opportunities come the challenges. The Indian Ocean and the surrounding region face a host of non-traditional security threats which include piracy, marine terrorism, climate change, illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, human trafficking, natural disasters like tsunami, illegal migration, and interruption in freedom of navigation.
Many of these challenges have severely affected the countries associated with this Ocean. The island nations are facing existential threats due to climate change and consequent rise of sea level; unseasonal heavy rainfalls resulting into floods and landslides have been hitting Nepal and other countries every year taking a heavy toll of precious lives and property caused by the phenomena of global warming; similarly, threats of human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling and illegal migration have continued posing grave security threats.
In this context, it is appropriate to pursue collective actions from the countries directly or indirectly linked to the Ocean in order for addressing these challenges.
Moreover, maritime security of the Indian Ocean should receive a due priority by all the governments concerned.
It is important to note that the existing multilateral and regional architecture- Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit- have all prioritized cooperation in maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, and disaster risk management.
In the South Asian region, initiatives taken such as this Conference will prove instrumental in forging cooperation in regard to strengthening the security of the region.
In Nepal’s case, though Nepal is not directly linked with this Ocean, the country is associated with it, as major portion of Nepal’s international trade passes through it. It is bearing the brunt of the adverse impacts of climate change without being the cause for it. So is the case for the Maldives and some other countries.
Nepal believes that the rights of exploration, navigation and utilization of the resources of this Ocean can only be exercised when there is peace and security. Furthermore, it also holds that maritime security will continue to play a meaningful role in strengthening the Blue Economy, benefitting all the countries concerned.
Nepal is in favour of peace, prosperity and abidance of international laws in relations to the use of the high sea. It supports an architecture based on inclusiveness, partnership and collaboration among all countries and utilization of resources and sharing of the benefits by all states, including landlocked countries like Nepal.
I am confident that such arrangements would ensure the exploration, navigation and utilization of the marine resources, sharing the benefits and use of high seas to all states, including landlocked countries like Nepal.
In this context, I am happy to inform this august gathering that the Government of Nepal has been working towards implementing the vision of connecting Nepal’s mountains with the Indian Ocean with seamless connectivity of roads, railways and waterways.
Nepal is also in a process of bringing into operation its own commercial ships in international waters, hoisting Nepal’s Flag, in the near future. We believe it will involve us directly with the Indian Ocean with much more focus on international trade and transit.
There is one more dimension- the ecological interdependence between Himalayas and Indian ocean. In the context of climate change, the melting of glaciers results in the rise of sea-level which endangers the survival of low-lying island states. So, preserving the ecological balance in the Himalayas by addressing the adverse effects of climate change is in our common interest. The Himalayas have not only ecological values, they have been the source of civilization and repository of traditional and indigenous knowledge.
The Government of Nepal, with a view to sensitizing the international community on the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of people living in the mountains and low-lying coastal and island states, will be hosting a dialogue on Climate Change and Mountain Ecology in the first quarter of next year within the framework of newly established ‘Sagarmatha Sambad’. We will invite you attend the event once we finalize the details.
As to the exploration and utilization of the marine resources under the high seas, Nepal is yet to take full advantage of these resources.
Taking it into consideration, we urge the developed world for their support to the Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs) to enhance capacity for reaping the benefits of the sea.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to inform you that Nepal is in the process of developing in-land water ways in its big rivers in cooperation with India in a way to connect Nepal’s rivers with the sea for the movement of its export and import. It believes that effective waterways as a means of transport can greatly facilitate smooth, economical and fast trade and transit. Once Nepal is able to do so, it will also be effectively linked with the Indian Ocean.
At this moment, it would be relevant to recall the decision of the Fourth BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu in 2018, which emphasized the importance of Blue Economy. The summit agreed to cooperate in this sector for the sustainable development in the region, paying due considerations to the special needs and circumstances of the landlocked Member States. I hope the agreement will be implemented in its true spirit, enabling the land-locked countries like Nepal to reap maximum benefits.
When we discuss about the sea, we need to do it in a holistic manner. There is no doubt that maintaining security of the Ocean is of paramount importance. So is removing obstacles and addressing challenges of various sorts. What is more for the land-locked states like Nepal is to help remove their difficulties so that this natural handicap would not become an obstacle for their development.
Equally important is that the resources of and benefits from the oceans and seas should be equally shared with all countries associated with them. Then only we will create robust cooperation, including for their security and resolution of problems.
Nepal is ready to cooperate with all other countries associated with this region in strengthening security of the Indian Ocean and addressing the challenges facing it in whatever way possible.
Before I conclude, I, once again, would like extend thanks to the Organizing Committee for hosting this conference on a relevant theme which interests all coastal and landlocked countries.
I wish the conference a grand success!