Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 20:
Odisha has the opportunity to reclaim its trade and cultural relations with nations in the Indian Ocean Region. The state can become the maritime gateway of India once again, said chief minister Naveen Patnaik today.
“Now, we have the opportunity to reclaim our trade and cultural relations with nations in the Indian Ocean Region. Keeping this in mind, we must develop a comprehensive geo-strategic policy that promotes mutually beneficial engagements relating to trade, culture, security and environment. As we are culturally closer to these nations, we can have trade with these countries with relative ease and address one another’s concern,” he said while addressing the opening session of the three-day international conference titled ‘India & The Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade & Civilisation Linkages’ here.
The chief minister, who jointly inaugurated the conference with Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, expressed hope that Odisha can play a very significant role in this new paradigm by directing its policy framework to this region.
“We are keenly developing our infrastructure at a rapid pace to boost up our socio-economic development. Our robust mining and steel sector can contribute significantly in supporting development in Indian Ocean countries. We are in the process of setting up a number of ports along the 480-km coast. Apart from Paradip, the newly built Dhamra Port is growing as an important trading centre. I believe, Odisha can once again be the maritime gateway of India,” he noted.
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was the guest of honour at the conference, said India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is trying to create rapport with neighbouring Rim countries (a region comprised of countries that border the Pacific Ocean) like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Seychelles.
“The Prime Minister, during his recent tour to Sri Lanka, did a commendable job by holding on to the aspiration of the people of Indian origin and respecting the sentiments of the Sri Lankan nationals while safeguarding the interests of the country in the region. This conference is being held at an important time when we need to prosper by taking others along with us,” he added.
In her address, the Union External Affairs minister, while underscoring the maritime security as a key dimension of India’s bilateral ties with Indian Ocean Rim countries, said India values its trilateral maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives and was trying to expand it to include others particularly Seychelles and Mauritius.
She was in all appreciation for the host city, which, she said, was the first planned city of modern India.
“The state capital, with its rich history of the century old Asian temples, has recently been rated by the World Bank as the best place to do business in India”, she said.
She also praised the ancient maritime tradition of Odisha while citing the example of “Boita Bandana” and the “Giraffe on Boat sculpture at Konark”.
“Today, the Indian Ocean carries one half of world’s container shipments, one-third of the bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the oil shipments, though three-fourths of this traffic goes to other regions of the world. Besides, 90% of our trade by volume and 90% of our oil imports take place through sea. We have a long coastline of 7500 km, 1200 islands and a 2.4 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone. The vast Indian Ocean region has over 40 countries and nearly 40% of the world population. It is vast and diverse, home to great cultures and holds immense opportunities for the future,” Swaraj pointed out.
Representatives of more than 20 countries—India, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Thailand, Mauritius, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Madagascar, Singapore, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Cambodia are participating in the conference.
Apart from these countries, China and USA have evinced keenness on sending their observers to the conference which will deliberate on vital aspects of trade, maritime security and civilization linkages.