Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday said that recognising the importance of world’s oceans as a global public commodity, Pakistan was committed to promote the prudent use of marine resources for socio-economic development while ensuring environmental sustainability.
“We are ready to cooperate and collaborate with other friendly nations and partners around the world, to realise this goal for the mutual benefit of the entire humanity,” the foreign minister said addressing at the International Maritime Conference titled "Development of Blue Economy under a Secure and Sustainable Environment" by National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) under the auspices of Pakistan Navy.
The conference included an array of prominent speakers who delivered keynote addresses during the conference presenting their dynamic thoughts over the theme.
FM Qureshi said to bring the blue economy to the centre of national economic development paradigm, there was need to create awareness among all stakeholders about its potential economic, social and environmental benefits, and to create an enabling ecosystem to help attract investments in related sectors.
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He said as part of economic diplomacy initiatives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan’s Missions abroad, in collaboration with the concerned ministries, had been actively engaged in attracting investments to the maritime sector.
He stressed the need for concerted efforts to strengthen partnerships and collaboration among businesses, academia, research institutions, and social and environmental organisations to unlock new opportunities.
The foreign minister said the idea of blue economy recognised the seas and oceans as drivers of socio-economic development and encompassed diverse fields from renewable energy to fisheries, coastal tourism, waste management, maritime transport, ocean engineering and climate change.
He termed the sustainable blue economy as critical for reaping the socio-economic benefits for current and future generations with its global value estimated to be over US$ 24 trillion.
Qureshi said the Indian Ocean was the world’s third-largest water body, while retaining its significance for global security, it represented an increasingly important avenue for global trade.
He said the Indian Ocean hosted international maritime traffic that included half of the world’s containerised cargo, one-third of its bulk cargo, and two-thirds of its oil shipments.
He said the ocean offered promising potential for mutual cooperation and collaboration, however, pointed out that geostrategic competition and the pursuit of military dominance by some states had gravely jeopardised that potential.
'India's aggressive policies pose immediate threat to international, regional peace'
“In particular, India’s belligerent and aggressive policies – currently driven by an extremist Hindutva ideology – pose an immediate and pervasive threat to international and regional peace and security,” he said.
Qureshi said in pursuance of its hegemonic designs, India had nuclearised the Indian Ocean and continued to induct advanced weapons systems and naval delivery platforms.
“Pakistan will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure its security and to maintain credible minimum deterrence,” he said.
He stressed that the international community needed to be cognizant of the fact that any military conflict in South Asia could endanger stability in a region that is critical for global trade flows and security.
He said blessed with an over 1000-kilometre-long coastline, and a vast exclusive economic zone, Pakistan was an important maritime state with its maritime sovereignty spanned over an area of 290,000 square kilometres, around 36.4 per cent of its mainland.
He mentioned that Pakistan was an important stakeholder in the Indian Ocean security framework, which included counter-piracy as well as human trafficking and narcotics smuggling.
He said Pakistan Navy had also provided valuable assistance at the high seas to vessels in distress, including during anti-piracy operations, and had extended humanitarian assistance to regional countries on several occasions.
Qureshi said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and development of the Gwadar Port were game-changing projects that had further enhanced the geo-economic significance of Pakistan.
The Gwadar Port, which occupies a strategic location overlooking the Strait of Hormuz and the North Arabian Sea, has the potential to develop into a full-fledged regional hub and a trans-shipment port, he said.
The foreign minister said it placed Pakistan at a point of convergence, linking active sea-lanes to landlocked Central Asian republics for shipment of oil, coal and agricultural products.
He said Gwadar Port provided new vistas for businesses, adding that extraction of life-saving medicines, coastal tourism, and the development of coastal real estate were industries that were attracting investment, both local and foreign.
Qureshi said Pakistan’s Liner Shipping Connectivity Index was reasonably high (comparable to Australia), however, said maritime sector required substantial investment for building, operating and enhancing its profitability.
He recalled that the government had declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Blue Economy’ to highlight the significance of its massive potential of contributing to the country’s sustainable economic growth and development.
About the potential that currently remains untapped, he said fisheries sector only contributed 0.4 per cent to the country’s GDP and the mangrove area, sixth largest in the world, could earn US$ 20 million annually.
According to one estimate, coastal tourism in Pakistan can contribute US$ 4 billion to the economy, he said.
He congratulated Pakistan Navy for regularly hosting the Multilateral Maritime Exercise, AMAN, on a biennial basis since 2007 and mentioned that the initiative was launched to promote peace and harmony in the Indian Ocean region.
He said successful conduct of this exercise was a manifestation of Pakistan’s abiding commitment and contribution to the promotion of international peace and security.
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, in his closing remarks, thanked all the speakers, panellists and participants who travelled from far and wide or participated virtually to add great value to the conference.
He emphasised on the great potential and prospects of the Western Indian Ocean Region for regional integration, inclusive development and international cooperation. The Admiral also praised the efforts of NIMA for the successful conduct of the event.
In the third and last session, CEO ZERI Gunter Puli presented his views online on Blue Growth Strategy for the Future World. Later, another important keynote address was delivered by Vice Admiral (Retd) Iftikhar Ahmed Rao emphasising on the blue economy.
At the closing of the conference, on behalf of Director General NIMA Vice Admiral (Retd) Abdul Aleem, Director NIMA Karachi Commodore (Retd) Ali Abbas integrated the conference proceedings and presented the recommendations.
He thanked the chief guest for gracing the occasion with his presence. The conference was attended by a large number of dignitaries from across the globe, officers from defence forces of Pakistan and friendly countries, academia, media representatives and researchers from local and international think tanks.
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(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)