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International Maritime Conference on "Strategic Outlook in Indian Ocean Region 2030 And Beyond - Evolving Challenges And Strategies" 11 February 2017

(2017-02-11) Sardar Masood Khan President Azad Jammu & Kashmir,
Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah Chief of the Naval Staff,
Admiral Tanweer Faiz
Rector Bahria University,
Distinguished Guests & Speakers,
Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

?Let me, first of all, thank the Chief of the Naval Staff for inviting me to share my thoughts with you on the theme of "Strategic Outlook in Indian Ocean Region 2030 and Beyond - Evolving Challenges and Strategies". I am also glad that the Conference with such an impressive list of Speakers coincides with the Pakistan Navy's multinational exercise Aman-2017 in the North Arabia Sea which is a very good example of a collaborative effort for peace and stability in this region at a time when the global geo-strategic landscape is in a state of flux. I welcome all the participants of Aman-2017 Exercise and the Speakers for the Conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As most of the participants are aware, the Indian Ocean Region has been growing in significance due to its strategic, economic and political dynamics. The changing power balance and relentless pursuit of national interest hasprompted analysts to suggest that many global struggles will play out here in the 21st century.

As the third largest Ocean and providing coastline to more than thirty countries, the Indian Ocean provides connectivity not only toimportant regions including the Middle East, Africa, Asia particularly South Asia and Middle East. It also connects Australia and Europe. An estimated 55 per cent of known oil reserves of the world and 40 per cent of gas reserves are located in this region. Today, some 40 per cent of the global trade passes through the Indian Ocean. With the rise of Asia as a global power house, the Region indeed offers a unique platform for today's globalized world - as an attractive trade route as well as a hub of human resource and industrial potential.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At present, Indian Ocean ports handle about 30 per cent of global trade and half of the word's container traffic traverses the Ocean. The establishment of new systems of roads, ports and other nodal points will further enhance the economic importance of the Ocean.

At the same time, the Indian Ocean also contains some of the world's most important choke points, notably the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca, and the Bab el Mandeb. The strategic importance of these choke points for global trade and energy flows means that a number of extra-regional states have decided to maintain naval presence in the Indian Ocean. With the assistance of both regional and extra-regional coalition powers, for example, the US has established a strong naval presence in the region. However, it is not the only major player in the area. The Indian Navy is undergoing substantial expansion. China's connection with the Indian Ocean is also very old. The fabled Chinese naval explorer, Zheng He sailed with a fleet of ships from China in early 15 century to Somalia and the Middle East, perhaps the first person to make the entire trip. For China it is the flow of energy and trade that is its foremost interest. With Chinese President XI Jinping's visionary One Belt One Road initiative, China's interest and presence is expected to grow. As the flagship of One Belt One Road, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will gain importance over time.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the Indian Ocean Region contains several conflict zones, the region's maritime security challenges have grown and are affected by key variables such as militarisation, the involvement of major and extra-regional powers, and non-traditional security threats.

On the other hand, the militarization of the Indian Ocean region, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, increased missile capabilities and power projection by foreign militaries are a threat to peace in the Indian Ocean Region. And this trend is likely to intensify in the coming years.

And to add to this complex scenario, today, the Indian Ocean faces many non-traditional security challenges and threats including piracy, illegal fishing, human trafficking, drug smuggling, trafficking of weapons, maritime pollution and climate change.

Pakistan has a strategic stake in peaceful navigation and security of Indian Ocean region. Our interests emanate from our coastline that is over 1000 kilometers long, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of around 300,000 square kilometers, the Karachi port and the newly built deep sea port of Gawadar. The un-demarcated borders in Sir Creek have the potential to cast a shadow on maritime security. With 95% of Pakistan's trade taking place through sea, we are heavily dependent on a tension-free Indian Ocean. Pakistan also has a reservoir of marine economic resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). India's evolving expansionist maritime security strategy is a cause for concern for peace in Indian Ocean. Nuclearization of the Indian Ocean has also led to further instability in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan is third largest Indian Ocean littoral country and as a matter of policy we continue to pursue the goals of realizing the economic potential of the region. At the same time, we are aware of our national interests and every effort would be made to strengthen our capacity to ensure that we remain ready to meet the emerging maritime security challenges. For us, to remain oblivious of the developments taking place in the Indian Ocean Region is not an option. These developments have a direct impact on our security and prosperity. We have to maintain significant naval presence to keep our sea lanes open and defend our interests whether on land or on the sea.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regular dialogue between stakeholders on security and safety has never been so important. Pakistan has already been playing an important role in maritime security of the area. We are part of the Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan andPakistan was the first country to join Task Force-150 aimed at eradicating terrorism and human, arms and drug trafficking alongside other nations. We are ready and willing to expand our contribution for ensuring a peaceful Indian Ocean Region. The non-traditional threats including terrorism and environmental degradation are also a source of concern that impact us directly.

And now Ladies and Gentlemen, the important question: how can we convert these challenges into opportunities?

Maritime security covers everything from physical safety and security measures to port security, terrorism and more. While dealing with prevention of illicit activities in the maritime domain, it is linked directly to the national security of countries in the region. The countries of the Indian Ocean region are remarkably diverse in terms of size, economic strength, languages and cultures. But the Indian Ocean can become a powerful unifying force and a common bond that has the potential to enhance prosperity and sustainable development in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Maritime safety and security is a key factor to be kept in mind if we desire to have a safe, secure Indian Ocean which is vital to ensure smooth movement of goods and people.

The issues surrounding the protection and use of the ocean are trans-boundary in nature and require stronger cooperation among stakeholders.

In order to ensure a secure, peaceful and prosperous Indian Ocean Region, we need a strategy that is integrated, inter-sectoral and multidisciplinary, and aims at promoting a maritime economy that is innovative, competitive and environment-friendly.

Our strategies may also include mechanisms for optimizing coordination, cooperation and dialogue between policymakers, private sectors and scientific communities in the Indian Ocean Region. We need to build upon existing national, regional and multilateral mechanisms to enhance coordination and should support a harmonizedimplementation of international maritime safety and security regulations to address maritime safety and security challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Institutional cooperation and synergies between the institutions in the Indian Ocean Region is important. Arrangements for maritime search and rescue in the Indian Ocean have to be strengthened and standard operating procedurescovering joint patrolling by maritime security forces need to be further developed.

The Indian Ocean Region needs to have a mechanism for timely exchange of information, capacity building and the provision of technical assistance. Resources should be utilized more effectively for enhanced cross-border co-operation and in the sharing of knowledge, experiences and best practices. In this context, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, being the vehicle for maritime awareness. I hope that the discourse on contemporary maritime issues and takeaways from the conference will be pursued in earnest to maximize its gains.

The real challenge before this Conference is to asses, whether by 2030, the Indian Ocean will become a zone of peace and progress or an arena of conflict and rivalry and then to suggest ways and means by which it can become, primarily, a zone of peace and prosperity. This is also Pakistan's priority.

Co-operation between public and private stakeholders in meeting the challenges of maritime security is also critical. It would foster innovation and initiatives towards creating a common information-sharing environment for maritime security. The strength of the maritime industry lies in its entrepreneurship and ability to innovate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to thank Chief of the Naval Staff once again for inviting me and including me amongst those who believe in the legacy of oceans and centrality of maritime world in the march towards prosperity. On behalf of the Government of Pakistan, I assure the organizers and participants of this conference of Government's unstinted support for the development of maritime sector. For its part, the Government remains committed to do whatever is necessary to develop the maritime industry. Finally, I wish and pray for the success of this conference and achievement of its noble objectives.

Thank You