23 APR 21

At the outset, I would like to congratulate and acknowledge the efforts of FICCI and SAMDeS in hosting this webinar and bringing together expertise from across the world to discuss this important issue.

It is a very apt topic to discuss, for COVID has not only changed the way we interact – this Webinar being an example – but has also impacted the global economy. Blue Economy holds out promise and hope for all of us, as the new frontier and engine of global growth.

Oceans have an Estimated Asset Value of US$24 trillion, and make the 7th largest global economy. Estimates show that ocean-based trade would quadruple by 2050; 2/3rd of food production will be farmed from the seas; and clean offshore wind energy would be the leading power generation technology in the next few years. With 40% of global population residing within 100 kms of the coast, and the global population requiring 30% more water, 40% more energy and 50% more food by 2030, a turn to the seas is inevitable.

Yet, as Gunter Pauli, who initiated the idea in his 2010 thought-provoking book brings out, the challenge remains to not only harness the vast resources of the oceans, but to do it in a sustainable, equitable and efficient way. For the Indian Ocean Region, the challenges are significantly more diverse. Home to 1/5th of the world’s population, with 13 of the least developing economies, technology, resource mapping, exploitation, as also monitoring, remain key limitations in harnessing the latent Blue Economic potential. Adoption of Blue Economy among IOR nations is also quite diverse, contributing to between 1% to 30% of national economies of various States, signifying the mismatch between potential and adoption.

For India, Blue Economy offers an opportunity to make a transition from the “brown” economy development model on land, where sometimes unsustainable resource extraction has strained development. As India aims to emerge as a $5Tn economy, the only way to achieve this, to my mind, is to move outwards. Here, the oceans provide us with a vast resource pool that can be tapped to spur India’s economic growth. With the anticipated addition of the Extended Continent Shelf – which will equal India’s land area – combined with India’s location, a 7500 km long coastline, nearly twice the length of navigable inland waterways (14500 km) and 1400 islands, I think the seas must become India’s ‘Opportunity’ Region for the future.

When we think of the Blue Economy opportunities for India, they span the entire spectrum from energy to ecology, fishing to tourism. For instance, nearly 51% of India’s hydrocarbon reserves are located offshore across 26 sedimentary basins, hosting 42 billion tons oil equivalent of conventional hydrocarbons. Of a potential fish resource of 5.3 million metric tonnes in India’s waters, production from marine fisheries is estimated at only about 75%. 90% of this catch comes from inshore fishing upto 50 m depth, highlighting prospects for deep-sea fishing. India’s Offshore wind energy generation potential is more than 200 GW, only 1/6th of which is currently planned to be tapped. Large Marine Ecosystems in the Bay of Bengal comprise 8% of the world’s Coral Reefs and 12% of Mangroves, opening opportunities for Coral reef tourism, which globally generates $36 billion per year, apart from ecological conservation. While Blue Economy contributes about 4% of India’s GDP, I think there is tremendous potential to expand its contribution. I am sure that the panelists would explore these dimensions and developments related to India and the region at large.

Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has stated on several occasions and as recently in the recently concluded Maritime India Summit 2021, the need for India to emerge as a leading Blue Economy of the World. He has also urged that the maritime stakeholders must not work in silos and join hands together in this task. The Navy is a key stakeholder in realizing this vision as its fundamental strength lies in imposing national will and enforcing national law in our own ocean spaces and international best practices in the areas beyond national jurisdiction so that commerce and trade thrives in a safe secure stable and sustainable manner. These contribute to the core objectives of the SDG 14 namely to preserve, protect and conserve ocean spaces and resources.

Being a practitioner, on my part, I would like to offer some thoughts on how we in the IN are focussing on “‘Securing’ – the Blue Economy”, as the topic today brings out. First let me give you the economic map of India for all you to grasp the potential of this sector.

To my mind, security and growth are inter-dependent elements. This symbiotic relationship is also encapsulated in the idea of ‘SAGAR’, which literally means the oceans, and stands for ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’, an approach that symbolises India’s outreach to the IOR littorals.

In this endeavour to support Blue Economy, the Navy aims to be, both an Enabler and an Element of national and regional Blue Economy efforts.

In terms of being an Enabler, I will highlight five ways in which the Navy contributes to Blue Economy.

  Firstly, as I said earlier, by ensuring safety, security and good order at sea. We all may recall how expansion of piracy to the Central Indian Ocean in 2015 had redefined the High Risk Area, increasing insurance rates and impacting traffic flows. The Indian Navy’s active efforts at that time had restored the situation. Piracy off Somalia is another example, where threats at sea have hindered maritime activity. For Navies, therefore, assuring a safe and secure maritime environment, in order to support growth and development, are key responsibilities

  •          Second, is by maintaining comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness. MDA is crucial, if we are to develop greater understanding of what is happening at sea. This remains a challenge, given the expanse; the IOR, for instance, is 20x India’s landmass. Our MDA efforts are focussed on preventing activities, such as IUU fishing, which can deprive economies of their rightful Blue Economy dividend. 
  •          Third, is by coordinating with various national and international maritime agencies, so as to close gaps in understanding, policing and jurisdiction. For instance, the recent drug haul west of Minicoy, was enabled through close coordination with various national agencies. These Drugs, eventually, find their way into regional tourism-oriented economies, such as Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, leading to economic, social and law and order issues that can sap a nation, or transform it from a tourism to a terrorism hub.
  •          Fourth, is by close interaction with various littoral Navies to build better resilience. In this, we are working with Navies to enhance the overall ‘Collective Maritime Competence’ of the region. Each one brings certain unique capabilities to the table. For instance, Bangladesh Navy has experience of operating in riverine areas and estuaries, important to monitor mangroves and coastal ecology. By working together with partners and like-minded Navies, we build overall competence to support economic activity at sea.
  •          Finally, building capacities and enhancing maritime capabilities of littoral nations. Seychelles, for instance, has made notable strides in developing a strong Blue Economy. However, with an EEZ 2/3rd the size of India’s EEZ, maintaining effective surveillance remains a challenge. Similarly, Mauritius has an EEZ which is 1000x its landmass. The recent oil spill of MV Wakashio close to a marine park highlights the impact of such incidents on fragile marine ecosystems. In this, we support our partner nations through construction of patrol vessels, installation of radar chains, training support, information sharing, as also conduct of joint EEZ patrols at their request.

In terms of discharging our role as an Element of Blue Economy, some of the ways that we extend support are …

  •          Firstly, through hydrographic capability that constitutes the essential building block of the Blue Economy. In this, the Chief Hydrographer to the Govt. of India, is working to develop a Marine Spatial Plan covering India’s EEZ, so as to enable optimal utilisation of ocean resources through policy-making by the Govt.
  • Another area is data collation. Naval assets support oceanographic data collection that pools into the wider national marine data, through MoUs with the National Institute of Oceanography; INCOIS or Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services; and the Geological Survey of India.
  • We are also supporting the national Deep Ocean Mission, which aims to send a manned mission to 6000m depth for survey of polymetallic nodules, hydrothermal deposits and gas hydrates, as also research on deep-sea bio-diversity. The Navy’s experience on operating manned and unmanned submersibles, as also our understanding of the under-water domain contributes to this.  
  • The Navy is also supporting IORA in its regional efforts. The 23-member grouping has emphasised development of Blue Economy through “common vision for balanced economic development in the Indian Ocean Rim.” We support this initiative through participation in various working groups, preparation of HADR SOPs, as also information-sharing on critical issues through an MoU proposed between the Navy and IORA member States.

Before I conclude I must also add that Securing the Blue Economy requires a gamut of new technologies and innovations. These relate to Big DATA, satellite systems with hyper spectral imagery, SAR sensors etc, 5 G communications, shore based staring surveillance sensors and systems, autonomous platforms, artificial intelligence enabled maritime operations, subsea systems and many others. I notice this has been addressed in this webinar and there is strong team of industry experts discussing these technologies.  I am clear that in keeping with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s exhortation for Atma Nirbhar Bharat Indian industry will invent, innovate and introduce new technologies in partnership with global partners that will further strengthen the Navy’s hand in Securing India’s Blue Economy.

In sum, the Navy remains focused on contributing its fullest might to support Blue Economy efforts of the Government of India. We have the resources, assets and domain expertise for mapping, characterizing, monitoring and enforcing good order at sea. These are offered to other stakeholders and we remain willing and fully committed to serve this noble cause.

In conclusion, I would say that Blue Economy offers a model for sustainable development for the world, and has the potential to become a key driver for global economic growth. Navies remain committed to supporting such efforts through an enabling ecosystem, and prevent a ‘tragedy of the Commons’ impacting our shared inheritance. With this, I wish the seminar enriching discussions.


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