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India committed to preserve, advance regional cooperation - Swaraj

The Indian External Affairs Minister yesterday assured her neighbours that India's vision for the Indian Ocean Region was to 'preserve its organic unity while advancing cooperation'.

Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the second Indian Ocean Conference at Temple Trees stressed the importance for ensuring and peace and security in the region which transported 90 percent of India's trade by volume and all of its oil imports.

'Clearly, it is but natural that India’s role as the key pivot in the Indian Ocean region is a given, not only geographically but by virtue of a shared historical and cultural heritage that binds us all across these waters', she said.

She added that her country would use their capabilities 'for the collective well being, and the mutual benefit of our maritime neighbours and island states in building their capabilities` and that it was the primary responsibility of all states in the region to ensure 'peace, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean'.

Prime Minister Modi through his concept SAGAR -"Security and Growth for All in the Region” in 2015 set out a clear path for India`s engagement in the Indian Ocean through; `enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories and interests; deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral; promoting collective action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors; working towards sustainable regional development through enhanced collaboration; and, engaging with countries beyond our shores with the aim of building greater trust and promoting respect for maritime rules, norms and peaceful resolution of disputes`.

The challenge, she noted was to 'ensure intra-ocean trade and investment, and the sustainable harnessing of the wealth of the seas, including food, medicines and clean energy'.

Through PM Modi's Sagarmala initiative; which aims to establish new ports and modernise old ones, India has set her eyes on improving maritime logistics in Sri Lanka,Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, Swaraj said.

As India looks to expand its influence in the region, she said security was fundamental for SAGAR.'If the revitalised maritime economy of the Indian Ocean region is to be a force for global economic growth in the coming years, it is essential that the waters remain peaceful, stable and secure.It is imperative too, that all stakeholders abide by a rules-based global order', Swaraj said.

She added that India was prepared to bear its share of responsibility and their response 'to security challenges in the Indian Ocean would be based on our national capabilities, complemented by participation in relevant regional platforms'.

One such platform is 'effective response mechanism to address humanitarian crises and natural disasters is perhaps the most visible element of the evolving Indian Ocean security strategy'.

India was the "first responder” to calls of assistance - providing relief supplies and medical assistance to flood ravaged peoples of Sri Lanka in June 2017.

'We see the Indian Ocean as not just a water body, but a global stage for continued economic, social, and cultural dialogue', concluded the Indian Minister of External Affairs.