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Tuesday, 18 December 2012






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SL poised to become maritime hub

Banquet address by the Chief Guest Mahinda Samarasinghe MP, Minister for Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights at the Official Banquet, Galle Dialogue 2012 on December 13, 2012

My congratulations are extended to the Sri Lanka Navy and the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development for continuing with this valuable initiative for the third consecutive year. This year, during a conference that has the critical thematic focus – Strategic Maritime Cooperation and Partnerships to Face the Future with Confidence – you will be reflecting upon issues that have truly global significance. The participants in this Dialogue have a unique opportunity to share their knowledge, perspectives and experience that will benefit all those interested in this most important area.

Sri Lanka, as an emerging economy and as a country that is beginning to enjoy the benefits of domestic tranquility after decades of combating terrorism, is vitally interested in its maritime security. Situated as we are in the Indian Ocean, we possess a strategic location that has been globally recognized for centuries. With the end of the conflict and the dawn of peace, it is of necessity that the country puts itself back on the global map, so to speak. Our major interest is in rapidly transforming our country’s fortunes by exploiting the opportunities that exist to establish ourselves as a maritime hub.

Our country’s maritime and trading traditions also enable us to host this gathering of experts and naval strategists from several major maritime countries as well as those dependent on sea-borne commerce plying the oceans. I note that the thematic focuses for the three successive Dialogues are closely interconnected and aim to incrementally develop upon the theme of the previous year.

Global policy makers

The Indian Ocean itself sees a huge quantum of general trade and approximately 70 percent of the global energy trade traversing its waters. Historically the Indian Ocean has been a region noted for the volume of trade and is an important transit point between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Given that nearly 80 percent of trade passing through is extra-regional and the balance intra-regional, safety and security of the Ocean has implications on a global scale. Further, Asian economic expansion and burgeoning inter-regional trade between Asia, the Middle-East and Africa, will mean that the flow of energy resources and goods is to expected grow – increasing the importance of the Indian Ocean. Ensuring maritime safety and security assumes far greater significance in this context.

The significance of the Indian Ocean region for a variety of purposes and objects has long held the attention of regional and global policy makers. Maintaining a strategic balance between those interested in this maritime area is of the highest importance. Whether it is in relation to transport, promotion of economic interests, geopolitical maneuvering, resource extraction or projection of national sovereignty, the role of the oceans has assumed a position of ever increasing magnitude. One of the main areas of attention in this century will be the broad cluster of issues pertaining to maritime matters.

It therefore becomes critical to assure the free flow of commerce, communication and the freedom of navigation by securing and maintaining maritime security. The increased realization of the importance of cooperation in this area among countries of the region and other stakeholders is expected to lead to a shared commitment to ensure maritime security. No doubt, those of you participating in this Dialogue will focus your attention on these issues. Free and open commerce, access to the ‘global commons’ and peaceful resolution of disputes are among the issues commanding the highest priority. The sharing of doctrinal and operational knowhow and the enhancement of maritime domain awareness (MDA) are key facets of this interchange of ideas, experience and expertise.

Financial resources

Due to the global economic crisis, financial resources are scarce and allocation for maritime security may be adversely impacted. It is through greater consultation and coordination, pooling of resources and their strategic deployment that optimal effectiveness can be achieved. Developing synergies among stakeholders and collective action could offset any resource constraints that affect individual nations.

To be continued


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