Strategically being located in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka strongly recognizes the significance of secure seas for global prosperity and connectivity. The significant economic transformation that Asia has experienced and the potential of the region becoming the most focused ocean space in the world brings along a wide range of opportunities as well as multitude of challenges.
The maritime space of Asia is strongly connected to the Indian and the Pacific Ocean through trade and commerce routes. It is evident by the way the region is identified; Indo-Pacific for some and Asia-Pacific for others, and is looked upon by all the key maritime powers in the world as a very important strategic maritime space in relation to their national interests. At the same time, the smaller nations with comparatively limited maritime resources have become an integral element of maritime security architectures in our region. Any critique will easily accept that no nation can and will not try to portray, that a single power or a coalition will be able to maintain peace and stability on their own. In such a background, all maritime nations have a role to play in ensuring the overall balance of strategic weight.
There are more areas that nations agree for safer and secure seas than areas on which disagreements exist. At the same time, there is universal agreement that a collective strategy on identified common challenges has to be built upon a rule based and a mutually respected strategy. Therefore, the value of forming a mutually respected collective strategy to address common challenges has been universally well received. Due to the ever increasing maritime nexus between trade and commerce regionally and globally, connectivity and forging sturdy partnerships have become the only means of which viable solutions are found.
As combined efforts result in multiplying the outcome, it is important that we interconnect through a well articulated strategy to address issues that are maritime centric. As no nation is capable of addressing present day maritime issues in isolation due to the sheer vastness of the ocean space and complexity of maritime security threats and challenges, nations are becoming more partnership oriented. Certain initiatives that are already in place provide us with a base to form broader partnerships in addressing present as well as future maritime security threats and challenges. Therefore, this year’s Galle Dialogue theme “Fostering Strategic Maritime Partnerships” reflects the concept, that achieving maritime security and prosperity, is necessarily a partnership oriented process. It is expected that deliberations will promote the concept of strategic maritime partnerships and the potential that such collaboration have in achieving common goals to ensure maritime security.
The waters of the Indian Ocean is becoming an increasingly Critical ocean space with each day passing by. Maritime Security concerns in relation to Geopolitics, Economics and resultant trade has transformed this region to regular global attention and focus.
The Indian ocean is drawn together with the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by Globalised supply chains, due to the tremendous increase in sea trade, with energy being the most critical of the natural resource flows. The energy flow from the Gulf region across the Atlantic to the developed world and through the Indian ocean to the booming economies in the ASEAN Region and China and Japan in the Pacific, has generated tremendous attention to ensure secure SLOC’s in the Indian ocean. Therefore, the Indian ocean today has become central for the Global Economics and Maritime Security interests than any other time in the history. Hence it is not a surprise that all the maritime powers in the world are equally concerned about the maritime issues related to the Indian ocean.
Most of the countries in the Indian ocean littorals are also experiencing economic progress, India being the most prominent, and as a result is becoming dependent on sea trade, creating a complex strategic environment. Security risks into the maritime domain flow not only from the traditional threats like Human Smuggling, Piracy, IUU Fishing, but also due to pressure from climate change to natural disasters to pollution.
To navigate this complex strategic environment maritime nations will need to pursue strategies in collaboration with the involvement of all the stake holders.
As a result of the dynamic and rapid involvement of the strategic landscape, we see most nations are agreeing on mutually beneficial security architectures, with many bilateral and multilateral partnerships evolving. This clearly indicates an increase in the understanding on the need of collaboration and partnership, in ensuring freedom of the seas, secure sea lanes and trouble free access as per accepted International Laws and Norms. A whole of Government approach by engaging in Economic, Diplomatic and Military activities is evident in order to build confidence for “Burden Sharing” by all stake holders. This is arguably the most prudent way forward towards maritime security.
In this context, this years’ Galle Dialogue will be promoting the theme of “Secure Seas Through Greater Maritime Cooperation- Challenges and Way Forward”. The conference theme will aim to re-emphasize the concept that coming together to think critically and deliberate, will deepen the understanding of the benefits of working together. It is expected that promoting a culture to resolve to work together, will encourage mutually agreeable Maritime Security architectures to evolve. This will enable every nation to rise together ensuring that to ensure that no nation is held back or allowed to lag behind.
Cooperation will ensure sharing of information and improving connectivity. Also it will help in reaffirming to the International Rules and Norms and build capacities and capabilities of nations which requires such assistance, support institutions and infrastructure and evolving new alliances and modernizing and strengthening existing ones.
In this context, under the aegis of the Ministry of Defense “The Galle Dialogue 2015” will be held on 23rd – 24th of November at Light House Hotel in the historic city of Galle in Southern Sri Lanka.
The surge of interest in maritime affairs today indicates that the domain is vital for existence, co-existence and even for competition. Whilst nations compete, collaborate and co-exist in this environment the attention to Maritime issues is at an all-time high. The interest shown by nations is multi-faceted with maritime security being the most critical aspect of an entire spectrum of issues. Other aspects ranging from legal to technical, knowledge to environment also have a part in enabling the reaping of economic benefits from the oceans. However, the lack of a substantive maritime security environment prevents the reaping of such benefits, thereby depriving prosperity through maritime means in the quest for development.
It is well understood that synergy of efforts, both internally and externally, is key for maritime prosperity but how and by what means that is achieved requires consideration. As world economies are increasingly dependent on sea-borne trade the possibilities of involvement in unwanted situations are also high. No incident in the maritime domain remains isolated, as the incidents of piracy off the Somali coast proved by its global repercussions. Hence it’s opined that maritime matters need the attention of policy makers and policy executioners alike, no matter how trivial the incident may be. It is evident that matters left to evolve without concerted action, may eventually necessitate the commitment of more finances, resources and attention in the medium and long term.
This year’s Galle Dialogue explores the ways and means to synergize the efforts of Cooperation and Collaboration to achieve Maritime Prosperity. Maritime Prosperity is not evaluated only by the naval prowess or technological superiority; it is defined by a combination of aspects such as policies, legislation, law enforcement capacities, policing capabilities, investments, shipping etc. Whilst each nation may use different yardsticks to grade their maritime prosperity, it is the level of confidence placed by other nations that determines one’s standing in the area of maritime prosperity. It is these yardstick measurements that need to be evaluated within the overall context of maritime security and peace. The Dialogue envisages the exchange of different perspective on how nations perceive their standing and position in fulfilling security, scientific, academic and technical aspirations in a domain that unites nations for common interests. Although Governments are at the forefront of maritime administration, it is mostly the private users that exploit the economic benefits on their behalf. Hence today’s maritime domain encompasses public-private concerns at equal settings too. In this context, the voice of the industry stakeholders as well as academics and independent analysts also to be taken onboard.
The Galle Dialogue will focus primarily on Cooperation and Collaboration beyond maritime security in reaping maritime benefits for prosperity. This endeavour aims to provide a platform for nations to pursue matters of bilateral and multi-lateral interest in the maritime sphere.The identification of deficiencies in the present status and recommending solutions in spheres such as security policies, environmental regulations, harmonisingdifferent legal regimes, shipping paradoxes, collaborative measures and domain awareness involve commitment and determination to resolve. Despite the complex nature of issues involved peaceful co-existence inthis highly competitive yet cooperative and collaborative environment is a distinct possibility.
As the Galle Dialogue completes five years since inception it is our hope that theseimportant deliberations would provide an opportunity for participating nations to gain a better understanding of interconnected issues andassist in making the seas safer for all.
The Indian Ocean has become the focal point of the 21st century. This has predicted by historians, academicians, strategists & statesmen, in some cases couple of centuries earlier. The world economics, which is being connected by sea, has been the driving factor in this pivotal process. This Geo-Economics has influenced the Geo-Political view of the affairs of the Indian Ocean, affecting many trends in the region. Whilst some school of thought reinforces perceived threats and challengers, the other support peaceful coexistence. Many present day trends in the form of US’s rebalancing to Asia & emerged non-traditional threats in the region have amply demonstrated the dynamics of the Geo-Politics and their implications in the Indian Ocean.
The trends are far-flung, with commerce, trade, resources, legal, security, sovereignty and threats and involve many stakeholders. Out of the top fifty (50) container ports in the world, only two are from the South Asian region. And out of the top ten (10) six are in China alone these trades go through the Indian Ocean connecting Far-East. Securing these sea lines of communication (SLOC) from threats poses a challenge whilst the region as an entity is prone to many other non-traditional threats. Traditionally threats in the Indian Ocean were confined to conventional forms such as regional rivalry, piracy & resources. However many non-traditional threats now prevails reinforcing the tension in the region.
In this context, the Galle Dialogue 2013 is focus on examining the emerging trends in the Indian Ocean which have potentials to destabilize the regional peaceful coexistence as well as promote interdependency which stabilize the coexistence.
The milestone judgment by the International tribunal for law of the sea on the maritime boundary line demarcation between Myanmar & Bangladesh, Nuclear capacities in the regional players, sharing of resources of living and non-living nature, ever growing sea-based economies and the declining trends of piracy in the Gulf of Eden are some of the aspects the Galle Dialogue is focusing in the fourth successive gathering of the annual event in 2013. Each of these themes, have significant contribution in the regional as well as the extra-regional Geo-Politics. These are the very subjects that drive the trends and which need better understanding and sharing in a dynamic world of economic driven politics.
Over emphasis in not necessary to reiterate Sri Lanka’s strategically important location in the Indian Ocean, which is a widely accepted fact. It is also true that it was through sea trade that Sri Lanka was known and its history was shaped over the years. In this context Sri Lanka like all the other nations which depends on the stability of the Indian Ocean, is extremely concerned and mindful of the safety and security of this vital ocean space.
The world underwent a number of notable shake-ups in 2011; the economic crisis in Europe, USA and other parts of the world, the Arab springs, the Fukushima disaster etc. We have to be mindful of how all these developments will impact the funding, resource allocation and deployment patterns of all the Navies interested in the region, since, the Indian Ocean is a major area of concern not only for the regional players but also to the major powers of the world. Further, it is apparent that, due to the importance of the Indian Ocean, the strategic balance in the region will change in foreseeable future.
Everyone would accept that, for all these countries, Maritime Security has become a priority concern, whether the oceans are seen in terms of increasingly frequented transport routes, a source of energy and other raw material, a place of sovereignty or, as support bases for international peace keeping and other military and humanitarian operations. Therefore, one thing is certain; the 21st century will have a maritime focus. Oceans are becoming highly coveted assets and as such will need to be defended and made safe.
We also know that over the last few years, issues of maritime safety and security have constantly made international headlines. The increase in number of occurrences of illegal immigration, the high number of incidents of acts of piracy particularly around the horn of Africa, the increase possibility of terrorist attacks to ports and other installations, the continuing growth of drug / human trafficking, the concerns of IUU fishing, acts of pollution; etc, have raised fresh challenges to the sovereignty of the seas, causing Maritime security missions to assume critical dimensions. Even revisiting the Laws governing the seas has become necessary to achieve the desired objectives.
In the context of shifting of the strategic balance towards the Indian Ocean, every nation would consent that cooperation and partnership is the prudent approach to face the future. In view of the above concept, under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence & Urban Development, the Sri Lanka Navy is planning to organize this year’s Galle Dialogue initiative under the theme “Strategic maritime Cooperation and partnerships to face the future with confidence”
The conference theme reflects the concept that achieving Maritime Security and prosperity is not the responsibility of a singular country but of all interested nations and partners embodying a whole of government approach.
The previous two Galle Dialogue initiatives in 2010 and 2011, created forums to discuss and deliberate matters to identity the Challenges to Maritime Security and Strategic approach to move forward. This year’s theme is expected to give the participating nations to come up with specific concepts of how they view partnerships and cooperation could strengthen maritime security operations to face the future with confidence.
As directed by the Ministry of Defence & Urban Development of Sri Lanka, the conference will be held on 13th and 14thof December 2012 at Light House Hotel in the historic city of Galle in Southern Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka being an Island Nation, geographically situated in a strategically important location in the Indian Ocean has been a focal point of maritime activities through sea borne trade and commerce along its history. It was through sea trade that Sri Lanka was known for years. Therefore, secure Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) around our adjacent seas, had been and will be a key factor for country’s prosperity, especially in a globalised world increasingly dependent upon sea trade.
Two years since defeating terrorism, the county displays a yearning to grab lost opportunities for economic progress. The long term strategies for the country’s development indicate the desire to join hands with other emerging economies and also transform to a maritime hub in the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Ocean also remains a key geographical region of strategic, economic and socio political action. Many of the world’s most important sea lines of communication are through the waters of Indian Ocean. It is also characterised with cooperation and competition by regional and extra regional powers. Beyond such traditional competition we see the emergence of other threats such as terrorism, narcotic and gun smuggling, human trafficking and most importantly piracy which is changing the maritime security dynamics in the region.
Today, the security of shipping in the Indian Ocean faces severe threat from sea piracy dominant off the Somali coast. This is steadily increasing to target shipping in the region. In spite of tremendous sea control efforts by multinational maritime deployments in threatened sea lanes and choke points, piracy seems to thrive unhindered. Therefore maintaining maritime security and stability has attained colossal significance with regard to freedom of navigation and uninterrupted commerce.
In the years ahead Navies in the region while continuing to protect respective national interests will have to face a multitude of other challenges as well in protecting the busy international sea lanes in the region. Inevitably, Sri Lanka Navy will be an active partner in the maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, especially due to the strategically vital location the country is situated.
In this setting, littorals of Indian Ocean faces greater challenges in forging their national interests and maritime strategy. It is the common belief that the continued progress of these economies depend on cooperation, common strategies and sharing of resources to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean, which is also vital to other nations depended on these seas.
The “Galle Dialogue” initiative of last year created a forum to discuss and exchange matters of regional maritime security concerns. The follow on, “Galle Dialogue 2011” as directed by the Ministry of Defence will be organized by Sri Lanka Navy and held at Lighthouse Hotel, Galle on 14th and 15th November 2011 with local and foreign participation from the maritime fraternity. The Dialogue this year will aim to continue the discussion with experiences of events over the past 15 months. The theme for “Galle Dialogue 2011” would be “Challenges and Strategic Cooperation for Indian Ocean Maritime Concerns”.
Sri Lanka with a maritime heritage occupies a key strategic geographical position in the Indian Ocean. 30 years of terrorism that plagued the island was successfully defeated through a well planned and executed humanitarian operation. The Sri Lanka Navy contributing to this success was able to counter all forms of threats posed out at sea successfully.
The Navies triumph over one of the most feared terrorists groups - by far the most inventive and dangerous outfit at sea has moulded the Sri Lanka Navy to be an innovative and robust force, especially in irregular warfare at sea. Sri Lanka stands proud today and is willing of sharing these experiences of countering maritime terrorism and lessons learnt with the rest of the world.
Also, with the end of the conflict and the dawn of peace, it is pertinent that the country puts itself back on the chart, quickly transforming itself and taking its rightful place on the globe as a maritime hub. Further the country’s maritime and trading traditions also make it an ideal host for a gathering of Naval strategist from major maritime countries or those highly depended upon sea-borne commerce plying the Indian Ocean.
In achieving this objective the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order of Sri Lanka has decided to host a maritime conference termed “Galle Dialogue” which is scheduled to be held during the period 06th and 07th August 2010 in the port city Galle, Sri Lanka the capital of Southern province. Scholars and experts on maritime and naval affairs local & foreign are expected to share their views at this two day dialogue.