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The Oceans Dialogue - Towards A Common Prosperity Framework

Trivandrum, India 19-21 Apr 2017

The Oceans Dialogue, co-organised by the Observer Research Foundation and the Government of Netherlands, was held in Trivandrum, India. The event brought together experts from the respective areas of ocean governance to discuss ways to better govern the oceans. The Honorable Governor of Kerala, Shri Justice (R) P. Sathasivam delivered the inaugural address at the opening. 

The Governor stressed the importance of the oceans in history where Kerala was a gateway between the east and west. Traders from China, the Middle East and Europe made Kerala (known as Malabar) their base for commerce when it was famous for spices. 

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Fig.1: Capt. Martin having a light moment with the Honorable Governor. 

The three-day event discussed governance issues ranging from the importance of the oceans for Asia with sub topics covering blue economy, marine ecology, climate change, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), ocean law, connectivity and capacity building, maritime industry and trade regime , security/safety and a special panel on India-ASEAN relationship.

Capt. Martin A. Sebastian, Senior Fellow/Head, Centre for Maritime Security and Diplomacy spoke on ASEAN-India relationship and strategic security in the Asia Pacific.  He noted that though the planet was 71% water, it is still called earth as man lived on land. Governance issues are taken seriously when it affects man on land like deforestation and the ozone layer. However, when comes to destruction of corals, destructive fishing, illegal dumping and ocean trash, these issues seldom get mainstream attention except for organized foras.

As for ASEAN-India relationship, he hinted on the fact that historically, though South East Asian kingdoms evolved through cultural and religious influence of the Indian civilisation, these kingdoms paid tribute to China. This only goes to show that since time immemorial, trade and economy played an important part in international relations for South East Asian nations. India may need to strategize the Act East Policy taking cognizance of history.

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Fig.2: Capt Martin speaking in the session on India-ASEAN relationship with eminent speakers from ASEAN. This session was moderated by Ms Pooja Kapur, Joint Secretary, ASEAN, Ministry of External Affairs India. 

The dialogue achieved its aim to discuss prosperity frameworks in governing the oceans. Nations have to come together to safeguard the oceans for future generations. Government officials whether in the diplomatic corps, politics or civil agencies have to consider the value of the oceans in managing it. It is important then that Track II discussions like these are fed into the government system to better understand the needs in ocean governance. 

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Fig 3: Left to Right. Capt. Martin,  Ms ImaliManikarachchi  from Sri Lanka and Amb. Bhagirath

During the event, Capt. Martin took the opportunity to discuss Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) issues with the Secretary General of IORA, Amb. K.V Bhagirath on the Priority Areas (PA) for the IORA. Maritime Security and Safety is one of the PA for IORA.  http://www.iora.net/about-us/priority-areas/maritime-safety-security.aspx

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