United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


Mr. MJ Akbar,
Minister of State for
External Affairs
Oceans Conference
"Our oceans, our future:
Partnering for the implementation of SDG 14"
8 June 2017
Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations
235 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017 • Tel: (212) 490-9660 • Fax: (212) 490-9656
E-Mail: india@un.int
Mr. President,
I am honoured to be addressing this Assembly on the World Oceans Day.
We thank Fiji and Sweden, the co-hosts of the Conference, and greatly appreciate
the President of General Assembly for his leadership in mobilising support for
this timely initiative.
It is encouraging to note that so many leaders are participating in this
Conference .
. Mr. President,
Both ancient philosophy and modem science assert water as both the source and
sustenance of life. Prime Minister Narendra Modia mergred metaphor with
tradition when he said that the blue chakra, or wheel, at the centre of our Indian
flag represent the potential of the Blue Revolution or Ocean Economy,
emphasising the centrality of the ocean economy for India. Water, whether in
lake, river or ocean, has offered a harvest for humankind in many dimensions,
not least being the concourse of ideas, culture and partnerships across vast
distances for civilisations. We believe that India Ocean has been perhaps the
most powerful force for good in the geo-economics of world history. It can become
the ocean of the· 21st century, a free and secure pathway for trade and exchange
of intellect, discourse, cusisine and culture that helps fashion a truly
international harmony.
Mr. President,
India is familiar as a landmass. What we tend to overlook is that it also has over
7,500 km of coast and more than a thousand islands and is a seafaring nation
with a large coastal economy. More than a third of the Indian population lives
along the coast. India, one of the 'mega diverse' countries in terms of biodiversity,
is the third largest producer of fish and second largest producer of inland fish.
The Indian coastline has 12 major ports besides nearly 150 smaller ones and
several large shipyards. More are being built even as we speak.
We are, therefore, acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities that Oceans
represent: from sustainable fisheries to prevention and control of marine litter
and plastic pollution, from affordable renewable energy to eco-tourism and early
warning systems for disaster risk reduction and management, building resilience
and adaptation to climate change.
India has an extensive institutional and legal architecture to manage the issues
relating to oceans and coastal regulation. This includes several ministries and
specialised institutions dealing with different aspects of ocean research and blue
economy. The Prime Minister chairs the National Institution for Transforming
India, NITI Aayog, the nodal agency for implementation of SDGs, including the
SDG14. The Ministry of Earth Sciences, the National Institute of Oceanography
and the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, Centre for Marine
Living Research and Ecology and the National Biodiversity Authority are some of
the institutions doing pioneering work related to oceans. An Integrated Coastal
and Marine Area Management Project is involved in monitoring sea water quality,
shore protection measures, shoreline management, oil spill models through the
application of GIS, remote sensing and mathematical modelling for management
of vulnerable habitats.
Mr. President,
Earlier this year, the historic first Summit of the Indian Ocean Rim Association in
Jakarta the recognised Blue Economy as a driver of inclusive and su~tainable
economic growth and development As a follow up, last month we had fruitful
discussions in Jakarta during the IORA Ministerial Conference on Financing the
Blue Economy.
The rapid and sustained economic growth across oceans is proof that the world's
economic engines are purring to a new tune in the 21st century. We must tum
this into the harmony of a great choir, where each of us is an equal voice. The
21 st fentuiy will be shaped by the principles of equality and sovereignty. Those
who believe in discord have no place in a choir. The nations of oceans are often
called small. We do not believe in small or big: every nation is sovereign.
Capacities might vary, but all nations have equal rights.
Last November India launched an ambitious project called Sagarmala that
focuses on port modernisation, connectivity and coastal community development
involving more than 400 projects over the next two decades. This massive
programme aims to promote port-led development in the country by harnessing
India's 7 ,500-km long coastline and navigable waterways.
India is also working with our maritime neighbours to expand our cooperation on
Blue Economy and maritime security. Last year India hosted the first Maritime
India Summit, where Republic of Korea was our partner country and more than
40 countries participated. ·
Mr. President,
The human being is the acknowledged epitome of creation. Alas, he can also be
the cause of his own woes. There is a perverse duality in men. We can destroy
without feeling, or concern about consequence: the devastating impact of
overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change are becoming
increasingly clear.
In lndia, we recognise that the time for action is already long overdue. The
national government has begun projects for massive rejuvenation of rivers, while
citizens have risen to resurrect the waters. A clean-up operation of a Mumbai
beach by the local community made international headlines recently. India is
taking strong action to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. The National Green
Tribunal, to take one example, has recently banned the use of disposable plastics
in Delhi.
Mr. President,
The seas are both generous and equitable in their bounty. They feed the poorest
of poor: The fishermen, who sustain their families and communities, serve ·
humanity. They deserve to be at the core of any discussion, any action plan that
we arrive at in these augt;Lst gatherings. We must devise actionable means to
improve their lives; to minimise the conflicts that arise from competition, and,
most of all, end the exploitation that is often their fate. Our rules, regulations and
laws must serve the impoverished first.
We cannot allow our seas to tum fnto zones of contention. An age of shared
prosperity demands co-operation. Secure and open sea lanes are critical for
peace, stability, prosperity and development. In this context, India reiterates the
importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded
lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in
accordance· with universally recognised principles of international law including
the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - UNCLOS.
Mr. President,
·Three decades ago, India was the first country to receive the status of a pioneer
investor in the Indian Ocean. Indian scientists today collaborate in research
stations on the Arctic Ocean studying its links with climate in our own region.
Indian hydrographers partner in capacity building efforts with maritime
neighbours. Indian institutions work closely with regional partners in improving
early warning systems for tsunamis and cyclones. Indian naval ships are
deployed in delivery of humanitarian assistance and emergency evacuation as
also in patrolling sea-lanes against pirates.
India continues to expand its development partnership, especially with Small
Island Developing States (SIDS). India has committed a sum of US$ 500 million
as grant-in-aid and US$ 1 billion in soft loans for our SIDS partners over the next
three years. In the last three years, the Government of India has contributed a
sum of US$ 75 million as grants for development partnership projects in SIDS
partner countries. At the India-Pacific Islands Sustainable Development
Conference in Fiji last month India announced its contribution of US$ 1 million
to assist the Fijian Presidency of COP 23 for climate change negotiations.
Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new India-UN Development
Partner~hip Fund through which we will partner with a set of Pacific Island
States in building early warning capacities for El Nino related extreme weather
Mr. President,
We welcome the First World Ocean Assessment and hope that it will strengthen
the science-policy interface in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development. We must also work towards innovative technologies for offshore
renewable energy, aquaculture, deep seabed mining and marine biotechnology
are providing new source of jobs and competitive advantage. The need for
'greening' the ocean economy is also becoming clear with greater scientific
understanding of oceans and earth sciences.
We welcome the comprehensive Call for Action being issued by this landmark
conference. We are also happy to note the innovative mechanism of a registry for
Voluntary Commitments. India is also engaging actively in this initiative.
India remains committed to sustainable development of its Blue Economy and
building partnerships for the 2030 Agenda, including ~e SDG 14.
India also believes that there cannot be sustainable development without
sustainable engagement among blue nations. The framework for such sustainable
engagement needs to be reinforced.
Mr. President,
Oceans and seas have played a vital role· in human history. The health of oceans
will determine the health of our planet. Can there be anything more important, or
more urgent, than that? · ·
Thank you.