Under the aegis of the Symbiosis International University (SIU), the Symbiosis School of International Studies (SSIS) will be organizing its fourth International Relations Conference (IRC) in December, 2016 titled “India and the Indian Ocean: Sustainability, Security and Development”, in Pune. The conference will bring together ministers, bureaucrats, corporate leaders, academics, civil society organizations, NGOs and media professionals from India and abroad, to deliberate on the myriad aspects of India's foreign policy which includes issues like trade and investments, defence and security, blue economy and soft power diplomacy, to name a few, with regard to island nations of the Indian Ocean.
The emerging dynamics of international diplomacy has put the spotlight on the Indian Ocean region (IOR) as it connects the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and the Americas thus emerging as the theatre of 21st century geopolitics. The US naval strategist, Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan had rightly observed, “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century, the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters.” Movement across these waters is both facilitated and potentially constrained by several key choke points– the Mozambique Channel, the Bab el Mandeb, the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, the Malacca Straits, the Sunda Strait, and the Lombok Strait. Stretching eastward from the Horn of Africa to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, the IOR acts as a vital channel for Western military supplies and the Persian Gulf hydrocarbon resources. Most international commerce flows through this route.
Today, new technologies are opening frontiers of marine resource development from bio-prospecting to mining of seabed mineral resources. The sea also offers vast potential for renewable “blue energy” production from wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass sources. Furthermore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka last year, and assured these nations of India’s full cooperation in development partnerships for harnessing the blue economy.
The volatile socio-political environment in the region and the rise of India and China as major powers has made this an area of crucial geo-strategic importance. High rates of population growth and youth unemployment coupled with extremism and weak governance add to instability and migration issues. The region, already prone to natural disasters, is predicted to suffer most from climate change when compared globally.
There are multifarious challenges as well as opportunities facing the IOR, stemming from the interests of the regional and extra regional players. The IOR which is presently a pivot for contemporary geopolitics and geo-economics is at the top of India's foreign policy priorities. Given that 90 percent of India's trade and oil imports are transported by sea, forging regional partnerships is very vital for India to ensure the security of the sea lanes of communication and to attain the larger strategic interests.
This conference intends to discuss and deliberate on how the dynamics of the Indian Ocean region is expected to influence the geopolitical trajectories in the coming decades of the much discussed Asian Century. It is pertinent to explore how these changes will evolve in the coming years and the consequent impact on politics, economy and society of the region and India’s relations with other powers. The conference also intends to address the developments that are shaping the internal dynamics apart from mapping challenges and opportunities for India. It will seek to engage with analysis of the IOR from the various aspects of history, economy, geo politics, culture, energy, trade, migration, diaspora, among others.
The conference will seek to engage experts to provide a platform for undertaking serious deliberations on the following tracks and indicative sub-themes. The outcome of the conference is expected to provide a broad policy direction for Indian policy makers by identifying key takeaways from the deliberations.
The proposed key areas for discussion could be:
- 1. Trade, Investment and Economic Growth
- 2. Defence and Security
- 3. Soft Power Diplomacy
- 4. Development Cooperation
- 5. Blue Economy