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Country Statement delivered by Minister of State for External Affairs during the 19th Council of Ministers Meeting of IORA, Abu Dhabi ( 07 November 2019 )

November 09, 2019

Your Excellency, Minister Sayegh;
Excellencies, colleague Ministers;


I thank our hosts for the outstanding arrangements and the hospitality for which the Emirati people are famous. I also reaffirm the priority India attaches to the IORA, as an innovative concept, and a unique, broad-based platform for inter-regional partnership, connecting through the seas, the world’s most dynamic regions of South, Southeast and West Asia, Oceania and Africa.

Excellencies,

Our meeting today is timely. Over the past year, the world has remained in ferment. Yet a positive consequence is increased faith in suitably-reformed multilateralism. The value of partnerships drives us to focus on maintaining the open and inclusive nature of the maritime domain, and to reaffirm the importance for all nations to adhere to international rules and laws. This is both at the heart of IORA, and the increasing trend of nations located in this region, or with significant interests in it, to articulate the need for a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific.

India is pleased to note commonalities in its vision of the Indo-Pacific, and those of partners in IORA. We look forward to inputs for an IORA-specific understanding of the Indo-Pacific from the 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue, and the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group meeting, both of which India will host in December along with the Expert Group on Academics, Science and Technology Cooperation.

Excellencies,


Our Senior Officials have agreed on programmes for IORA’s Action Plan in its two remaining years. We urge greater focus on implementation: our group should not focus only on projects and events, but on focused, impactful actions. For this, we have a few suggestions:

First, administration and finance. A ship is only as fast as its engine room is sound. And despite efforts by our Secretariat, there is a need for all to pull their weight. We need to improve rules and procedures for the Secretariat, especially our Special Fund. As promised, my Ministry will send a team from its audit and finance departments later this month, to advise us on the Fund. We will also be deploying at our cost an IT specialist from the National Informatics Centre of India. The selected officer will leave for Port Louis soon, to start work within this year. And we are deploying a new Director, again at our cost, at the Secretariat.

There is an obvious link between efficiency of the Secretariat and finances. There is a mis-match between our annual contributions, and the needs of the Secretariat and our Plan of Action. We should task officials to devise a new, equitable payment plan that does not increase the burden on States that cannot afford to pay more.

Since this will take time, and presuming we can improve the working method of our Special Fund, we invite partners to add resources to the Fund, to support practical cooperation. We have just deposited US $ 1 million to the Fund last week.

Second, practicable work plans are key. We welcome finalization of such Work Plans in our priority areas. Our calendar of activities must be well-balanced, and experts from our line Ministries should be suitably involved.

As Coordinator of the Priority Area on Disaster Risk Management, we are pleased to have circulated here Guidelines for Disaster Risk Management. We were glad IORA partners joined us for our annual HA/DR exercises this past August. Lessons learned were circulated recently. Given the vulnerability of the larger Indo-Pacific region to natural disasters, we believe such exercises should have the widest-possible participation. We also encourage partners to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, launched at the United Nations this past September. And we look forward to positive responses on the MOU we have circulated in IORA, to share information from our Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region.

Third: widening the circle. IORA will be more effective when we go beyond policy makers and academics to bring in business and other stakeholders. Our activities and programmes must have a real-world impact.

In this context, we are pleased to help promote intra-IORA trade and tourism. We will host a workshop on beach and cruise tourism in Spring 2020, in partnership with our business chamber. And we are hosting a course in film making at our National Film and Television Institute in February. Our businesses have also made more suggestions to improve intra-IORA trade through trade facilitation and promotional activities. These are valuable suggestions, considering that the sea routes in the Indian Ocean should connect our countries with each other as well.

In this context, we see value in greater intra-IORA work on the Blue Economy and on Science and Technology. Bearing in mind the risk that pollution, especially plastic waste, unregulated exploitation of resources including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, poses to the environmental equilibrium of our oceans, we need to task our scientists and oceanographers to increase understanding of these challenges and to convey to policy makers solutions to address these challenges.

In this regard, our Prime Minister recently announced an Indo-Pacific initiative for the Oceans. It calls for creating partnerships to deal with specific challenges to our maritime domain, from security and safety to disaster management; from sustainable management of resources to better trade and transport links. We will be happy to share details so that we can collectively address the challenges to Indian Ocean.

Dialogue Partnerships symbolize inclusivity and cooperation. We welcome interest evinced by so many of our valued partners in the IORA. It is now our Group’s responsibility to establish a workable model to engage with Dialogue Partners that is in line with the inclusive nature of the group and its objectives, while prioritizing the Member State-led nature of its processes.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

India congratulates the UAE in assuming the chair of the IORA. We are certain that under the leadership of the UAE, IORA will attain greater heights and move towards achieving the objectives set out in the IORA Charter. India and the UAE share historical friendship connected by the Indian Ocean with strong people to people ties. India will actively support the UAE in its efforts to promote a shared destiny and a path to prosperity in the Indian Ocean.

Let me conclude by recording our appreciation to South Africa for its leadership of IORA these past years. We also welcome India’s close neighbour and valued friend, Bangladesh, to the Troika, as the next Chair. We also congratulate Maldives on becoming full member of the IORA and welcome them warmly to the IORA family.

Thank you.

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