On August 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a high-level open debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security – A Case for International Cooperation’ through a video conference. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to preside over a UN Security Council (UNSC) open debate. Reportedly, the conversation was centred on how to successfully combat maritime crime and instability, as well as enhance maritime coordination. India highlighted the need to strengthen international cooperation to address the drivers of maritime insecurity.
The participants were invited to consider the ways in which the private sector can contribute to the efforts of addressing maritime crime in the concept note. It urged cooperation between a wide range of actors to build a coherent and holistic response to threats to maritime security.
“The Oceans have played an important part in India’s history right from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. Based on our civilizational ethos that sees the seas as an enabler of shared peace and prosperity, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi put forward the vision of SAGAR – an acronym for ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region’ in 2015. This vision focuses on cooperative measures for sustainable use of the oceans and provides a framework for a safe, secure, and stable maritime domain in the region,” stated the PMO’s press release.
A number of marine security and maritime crime issues have been considered and resolved by the UN Security Council in the past, including maritime piracy. A high-level open debate, however, is the first time maritime security has been considered holistically as a separate agenda item.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed five principles for preparing a global roadmap for maritime security cooperation on Monday, including removing barriers to maritime trade and settling disputes peacefully.
Modi emphasised that marine channels were being used for terrorism and piracy. He said that the seas are the shared legacy of the globe and that maritime routes constitute the backbone of international trade, according to the Telegraph India.
Underscoring that the nations’ shared maritime legacy is facing several difficulties, the prime minister proposed five principles on the basis of which a global roadmap for maritime security cooperation may be developed. According to the Business Standard, in the marine sector, he suggested reducing trade obstacles. While he highlighted the importance of keeping the marine trade flow uninterrupted, he called global issues the hurdles.
“We should remove barriers for legitimate maritime trade. Global prosperity depends on the active flow of maritime trade. Any hindrance in maritime trade can threaten the global economy,” Modi said, elaborating on the first principle.
The second premise, he stated, was that maritime conflicts should be settled peacefully and in accordance with international law.
“This is very important for mutual trust and confidence. This is the only way we can ensure global peace and stability,” he said.
The third fundamental premise, according to Modi, is that the global community should work together to address natural catastrophes and marine dangers posed by non-state actors.
“We should face natural calamities and maritime threats created by non-state actors together. India has taken several steps to enhance regional cooperation on this subject.” He added, “We have been the first responder in maritime disasters related to cyclones, tsunami and pollution.”
The fourth and fifth principles enunciated by the prime minister were the preservation of the marine environment and maritime resources, as well as the encouragement of responsible maritime connectivity. “We have to preserve the maritime environment and maritime resources, he said. Modi further stated, “As we know, the oceans have a direct impact on the climate and therefore, we have to keep our maritime environment free from pollution like plastics and oil spills.”
“We should encourage responsible maritime connectivity. It is clear that the creation of infrastructure is necessary to increase maritime trade. But, the fiscal sustainability and absorption capacity of the countries have to be kept in mind in the development of such infrastructure projects,” said the prime minister.
According to India Today, the meeting was attended by several heads of state and government, from UNSC members as well as high-level briefers from the UN system and major regional organisations. Vice-President Hassoumi Massoudou of Niger, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh of Vietnam were among several other leaders representing their regions.
The council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet – Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – Ghada Fathi Waly, and President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in his capacity as the African Union Chairperson (AU).
Some members of the council had the opportunity to send in written statements, while briefers and other council members had their statements broadcast live.
The UN Security Council has discussed and passed resolutions on different aspects of maritime security and maritime crime in the past. However, this is the first time that maritime security was discussed in a holistic manner as an exclusive agenda item during a high-level open debate.
An extension to this initiative was announced in 2019 at the East Asia Summit, as part of the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI), which placed an emphasis on seven key areas of maritime security: maritime ecology; maritime resources; capacity building and resource sharing; disaster risk reduction/management; science-technology-academic cooperation; trade connectivity; maritime transport; and maritime transport connectivity.