New York, June 9: While addressing the conference on World Oceans Day, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said the 21st century will be shaped by the principles of "equality and sovereignty" and those who believe in discord have no place in a choir.
Further declaring the inviolable right of all countries to freedom of overflights and navigation on high seas Akbar said that seas cannot be turned into zones of contention and India has always reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation on the high seas and resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means.
"The nations of oceans are often called small. We do not believe in small or big, every nation is sovereign. Capacities might vary, but all nations have equal rights and therefore Akbar the 21st century will be shaped by the principles of ‘equality and sovereignty’ and those who believe in discord have no place in a choir,” Akbar said.
He further emphasized that seas cannot be turned into zones of contention, adding that secure and open sea lanes are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development. "We cannot allow our seas to turn into zones of contention. An age of shared prosperity demands co-operation. In this context, India reiterates the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Akbar said.
Akbar also noted, "The rapid and sustained economic growth across oceans is proof that the world's economic engines are purring to a new tune in the 21st century. We must turn this into the harmony of a great choir, where each of us is an equal voice."
Given that India has over 7,500 km of coast, more than a thousand islands and with more than a third of Indians living along the coast, Akbar said that India is acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities that oceans represent from sustainable fisheries to prevention and control of marine litter and plastic pollution, from affordable renewable energy to eco-tourism and early warning systems for disaster risk reduction and management, building resilience and adaptation to climate change.
Warning that the negative impact of overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change are becoming increasingly clear, Akbar said that the time for action is "already long overdue". Akbar also stressed that all fishermen deserve to be at the core of any action plan that is arrived at in global summits such as the Ocean Conference.
"We must devise actionable means to improve their lives, to minimize the conflicts that arise from competition, and, most of all, end the exploitation that is often their fate. Our rules, regulations and laws must serve the impoverished first", Akbar added.
Akbar also informed UN about the ambitious Sagarmala project launched in last November in India which mainly focuses on port modernisation, connectivity and coastal community development involving more than 400 projects over the next two decades.
He also informed United Nations that India continues to expand its development partnership with Small Island Developing States (SIDS). “Also, India has committed a sum of 500 million dollars as grant-in-aid and a billion dollars in soft loans for its SIDS partners over the next three years,” Akbar added.
"India also believes that there cannot be sustainable development without sustainable engagement among blue nations. The framework for such sustainable engagement needs to be reinforced", Akbar concluded.
Notably, the Ocean Conference opened at the UN headquarters on 5 June and will conclude on Friday. This is the first summit of its kind held by UN. The summit mainly focuses on the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by Governments in 2015. It aims to presents a platform for the world to reverse the precipitous decline of the health of the oceans and seas with concrete solutions.