Galle Dialogue 2014 commences in the port city of Galle

The international maritime conference, “Galle Dialogue - 2014”, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, got underway in the southern port city of Galle today, 01st December 2014. Thirteen (13) papers are scheduled to be presented at the two-day dialogue held under the theme, “Cooperation & Collaboration for Maritime Prosperity”.

The National Security Advisor of India Dr. Ajit Kumar Doval, who arrived in the island to attend the high profile event, delivered the keynote address and the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Jayantha Perera made the welcome speech. The Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris gracing the occasion as the Chief Guest addressed the august gathering on the theme "Towards Blue Economy" during the first session.

The Member of Parliament and Monitoring MP for the Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka Hon. Sajin De Vass Gunawardena, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Sri Lanka, senior Government and military officials were also among the VIPs attending the inaugural session.

Dr. Doval in his speech stated that it was indeed a great honour to address an illustrious gathering of experts and expressed his gratitude to the Secretary of Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa for inviting him to attend the Galle Dialogue 2014. Dr. Doval said that he was very much pleased to note an international initiative like Galle Dialogue achieving such great heights, which he believes mostly due to Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa's personal initiative and drive to make it a success. He congratulated the Government and the Security Forces of Sri Lanka for fighting successfully and bringing normalcy to the country. As a result, the phase of Sri Lanka's economic development is today very fast, he observed.

As the seas are becoming important and the inter-dependence is growing to be of greater value, initiatives like Galle Dialogue are very important, he went on to add. The importance of the Indian Ocean has increased with the passage of time due to global trade and global commerce. The center of economic activity is also moving towards Asia, Dr. Doval opined.

Elaborating further, he dwelled on what India can do and should do as India has certain responsibilities by virtue of its geography and history. By geography, India has been placed at the center of the Indian Ocean, he noted. As such, India has been continuously contributing to the betterment of the Indian Ocean Region by virtue of its economic strength, technological know-how and research successes. The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard can also play a very positive role in this regard, he further stated. They helpmaintain stability and render assistance to human disasters. He also stated that India is mindful of what happens in Sri Lanka as it also affects them, being located very close to each other. He concluded his speech stressing the importance of greater cooperation among countries to achieve stability and safer seas for all, citing the truism that collectively, we will all be safe and individually, we are bound to fail.

Hon. Professor G.L. Peiris in his speech, drew attention to the leadership Sri Lanka has taken in blue economy based on oceanic resources. In such a context, he expressed his pleasure at being able to discuss a timely and opportune topic of Cooperation and Collaboration for Maritime Prosperity at the Galle Dialogue 2014. He invited the audience to reflect upon the major conceptual changes, which have occurred with regard to the international regime of the oceans. Traditionally, he went on to add, there was a very heavy emphasis on the freedom of the high seas. Nevertheless, the Law of the Sea, like all other branches of law, has not evolved in a vacuum, he noted. It has developed in a political and economic context. Sri Lanka also played a key role in the formulation of the provisions of the UNCLOS, which is the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea, he stated.

Today, all the resources within the Exclusive Economic Zones and the Continental Shelf are available for exploitations by the littoral states of the world. This has created an opportunity for South-South cooperation because the developing world cumulatively possesses immense resources and potential to enrich the lives of their nations by drawing upon them which the international legal regime now places at their disposal. The full exploitation of oceanic resources requires stability, which is the sine qua non for economic development, he emphasized. He also stressed the need for finding ways of solving existing deficiencies in the UNCLOS. No country, no matter how powerful it may be, can act in isolation in any degree of effectiveness. It requires concerted and collective action, he emphasized. Hon. Professor G.L. Peiris concluded his speech citing an observation made by Admiral Mahan on the decisiveness of the Indian Ocean in shaping and defining the destiny of the 21st Century.

Fortified by the fascinating overview presented by the Keynote Speaker Dr. Doval on the importance of the oceans and the thoughts, which were well-articulated by the Chief Guest Hon. Professor Peiris on the potential of Blue Economy, the first session of the Galle Dialogue commenced its deliberations with Admiral (retd) Arun Prakash of India at the Head Table as the moderator. The first paper was presented by Rear Admiral Zhang Jianchang, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA Navy, on “Building Cooperation and Collaboration to Achieve Common Maritime Goals”. The second paper was delivered by Professor Robert K. Boggs, National Defense University, and Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies USA, on “Harnessing a Global Strategy for an Alternative Maritime Security Response”. His Excellency the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Australia and former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Admiral (retd) Thisara Samarasinghe moderated the second session in the afternoon. Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, the Commander Boarder Protection of the Australian Navy, delivered the first paper on “Collaborative Approach for Economic Benefits: Threats and Future Concerns”. The second paper was delivered by Rear Admiral Ben Bekkering, the Deputy Commander of the Netherlands Navy, on “How to Develop Maritime Partnerships”.