Galle Dialogue 2015 commences in the port city of Galle

The International Maritime Conference, “Galle Dialogue 2015”, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence, got underway in the port city of Galle today, 23rd November 2015. Thirteen (13) papers are scheduled to be presented at the two-day dialogue held under the theme, “Secure Seas through Greater Maritime Cooperation: Challenges and Way Forward”.

The Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe graced the occasion as the chief guest and delivered the keynote address at the inaugural session. The welcome remarks were made by the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne. The Minister of Ports and Shipping, Hon. Arjuna Ranathunga, the Minister of Low and Order and Southern Development, Hon. Sagala Rathnayake, the State Minister of Defence, Hon. Ruwan Wijewardana, the Governor of the Southern Province, Mr. Doctor. Hemakumara Nanayakkara, the Chief Minister of the Southern Province, Mr. Shan Wijayalal De Silva, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Karunasena Hettiarachchi, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal KA Gunatilleke, the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Crishantha De Silva and the Commander of the Ari Force, Air Marshal Gagan Bulathsinghala, several Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Sri Lanka, senior Government and military officials were also among the VIPs that attended the inaugural session.

The Prime Minister in his keynote speech commended the Sri Lanka Navy for the joint initiative taken with the Ministry of Defence under a timely theme focused on strategic aspects of relevance to ensure the fundamentals of a sustainable Global Maritime Order. He stated that Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the centre of the Indian Ocean is exceptional and sea borne trade remains key for the survival of our small island. The strategy for economic empowerment put in place by the Sri Lankan Government under the guidance of President Maithripala Sirisena envisages bilateral trade and economic treaties with India, Pakistan and the Bay of Bengal countries, the European Union and China. There are also plans towards discussions on Free Trade Agreements with the USA, he further stated. Sri Lanka is also placing itself to emerge as a dynamic trade hub connecting the countries in the Indian Ocean region. As such, secure seas including safeguarding the Indian Ocean SLOC's are vital for Sri Lanka’s security, stressed the Prime Minister.

The Indian Ocean is in need of a mutually benefiting security architecture established on a multilateral basis. There is also space for an effective multilateral governing structure. Unlike the Asia Pacific, this region is not economically integrated. The maritime security of the Indian Ocean cannot be guaranteed without filling this lacuna. Sri Lanka is willing take the lead to set up a multilateral forum that involves all stakeholders with UN support to address the security issues including the control of choke points and maritime security blue print. Such a forum categorized by a collective approach is likely to set the stage for a timely and relevant mechanism to be established for an open and comprehensive dialogue on a range of issues affecting the Indian Ocean in particular and the Indo-Pacific region in general. The process if institutionalized, will allow for combined partnerships across a range of areas of interest to Sri Lanka and other participating countries.

In such a context, the Prime Minister expressed his confidence that the deliberations that will be made during the next two days among the distinguished gathering at Galle will provide considerable insights into the challenges faced by the global community.

The Commander of the Navy making the welcome remarks extended a warm welcome to all participating in the Galle Dialogue international maritime conference, which is being held for the sixth consecutive year. He thanked the Honourable Prime Minster for his gracious presence on the occasion as the Chief Guest and expressed his appreciation of the guidance and assistance given by the Ministry of Defence for the successful conduct of the event. Stating that maritime security challenges, both traditional and non-traditional, have become extremely complex and interwoven, the diversity, complex nature and advanced tactics employed by illegal actors engaged in terrorism, piracy, trafficking, and smuggling, need to be addressed with urgency through cooperation and coordination, stressed the Commander. He noted that many nations are working closely with regional and global entities in finding lasting solutions to some of the most pressing challenges that are maritime centric. He opined that a whole of government approach by engaging in economic, diplomatic, and military activities with the active participation of all stake holders as the best way for us to move forward. The Commander also expressed his confidence that the experts from around the world representing our friendly navies, think tanks, other leading organizations will be able to have very fruitful discussions, exchanges of ideas and even constructive arguments to benefit this year’s theme during the conference organized to share the burden in finding solutions to a range of challenges in front of us.