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21 January 2020, Gateway House

Blue Economy’s global best practices

This is a transcript of a speech delivered by Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Chair, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Core Group of Experts and Taskforce, at the launch of a study on the Blue Economy

Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme

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This is the transcript of a speech that the author gave at the launch of FICCI’s study on ‘Blue Economy – Global Best Practices: Takeaways for India and Partner Nations’ in New Delhi.

Shri V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs; Dr. Jyotsna Suri, Past President FICCI; Shri Vikram Doraiswamy, Additional Secretary, MEA; Shri Manish Singhal, Deputy Secretary General FICCI; Mr. Peter Rimmele, Resident Director, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS); Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege and pleasure to address this distinguished audience at the formal launch of FICCI’s study on Blue Economy – Global Best Practices: Takeaways for India and Partner Nations.

At the outset, let me express our deep appreciation to the two institutions – FICCI and KAS – for supporting this project in a meaningful manner. I also wish to sincerely thank all my colleagues in the Core Group – Anup Mudgal, Vijay Sakhuja, H.P. Rajan, V.N. Attri and Sushma Nair – for their invaluable contribution. They represent a valued brain trust on the Blue Economy, nurtured by FICCI. Happily, some of them are present here. I am also delighted to acknowledge the presence of a few members of FICCI’s Task Force on Blue Economy.

As I see it, my role on this occasion, as chair and leader of the Core Group, is to brief you quickly about the contents and conclusions of this study.

The rising phenomenon of Blue Economy is the product of the previous decade. It is set to gain greater traction in the 2020s. The more scholars and experts research and explain this complex and multidisciplinary subject, the more the community at large, especially business and industry, keep raising the question: ‘What is Blue Economy and what is in it for us?’ Or, ‘How can we make it work to generate more revenue and more jobs for our company?’ This study attempts to answer such questions in a practical way.

It points out that Blue Economy is nothing but a sustainable and calibrated utilisation of oceanic resources. It requires a balanced focus on three pillars relating to maritime security, environmental sustainability, and business productivity.

This study is inspired and influenced by FICCI’s earlier Knowledge Paper entitled, Blue Economy Vision 2025, produced in April 2017 by the Taskforce which too I had the privilege to chair. The two publications, viewed together, confirm FICCI’s pre-eminent role as the industry’s voice that strongly advocates a holistic policy framework, geared to harness the full potential of the Blue Economy, both in the national and international contexts.

The study sheds new light on two important facets of the subject – external and internal. Concerning the former, it presents a critical survey of what key nations in India’s extended neighbourhood and beyond are doing to leverage the benefits of the Blue Economy, which is highly instructive for India.

Regarding the latter, FICCI’s experts, who went out to hold detailed consultations in coastal India, returned with very useful inputs from policy experts and practitioners at the grassroots level in three states – Kerala, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The one common message from a series of interactions is this: informed and purposeful proactivism is needed to assist our coastal states with best global practices, technology, management expertise and investment.

Opportunities in the domain of the Blue Economy have been classified into nine specific sectors, a substantial increase from the five sectors identified by the 2017 Knowledge Paper. The new study outlines, in some detail, as to where the potential lies in divergent sectors, namely i) fisheries and aquaculture, ii) port and shipping, iii) marine and coastal tourism, iv) offshore renewal energy, v) offshore energy i.e. oil and gas, vi) marine biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, vii) IT-driven marine innovation, viii) insurance and legal services, and ix) deep seabed mining.

Finally, some of the key recommendations made by this study deserve to be highlighted here. Among those designed to improve the institutional framework figures the recommendation to create, in the medium term, a full-pledged Ministry of Blue Economy, and, in the short term, ‘an effective institutional mechanism for coordination and leadership’. It also calls for the setting up of ‘India Blue Economy Forum’, comprising representatives of governments, business and private sector experts.

Its sectoral recommendations include measures to explore and popularise Green and Blue Bonds, undertaking focused studies on the marine leisure industry and role of Industry 4.0 technologies, and adoption of ecosystem-driven approaches to fish stock management. While commercial deep seabed mining may not take place in the near future, preparations for legal and contractual formalities should be undertaken. Besides, a number of useful and practical steps to enhance industry engagement with the Blue Economy have been suggested.

In this regard, I should emphasise FICCI’s seminal role. While increasing its cooperation with all relevant stakeholders, it should consider crafting a suitable promotion programme on the Blue Economy for the next three years, a period in which India is certain to be highly proactive in various fora, such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the India Africa Forum Summit, Brazil Russia India China and South Africa (BRICS) and G20. It is hoped that the government, particularly the Ministry of External Affairs, will extend necessary support and encouragement to FICCI in this vital mission.

In the end, may I express, on behalf of the authors of the report, our earnest hope that the government, industry, experts and media will pay ample attention to our findings. May the study trigger debate and suitable action at policy levels that result in enhanced public-private partnership arrangements at the national level and expansion of India’s engagement with its willing partners around the globe.

Rajiv Bhatia is Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, Gateway House. As a former Ambassador of India and senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs, he served in/dealt with seven Indian Ocean Rim countries: South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

These remarks were given at the launch of FICCI’s study on ‘Blue Economy – Global Best Practices: Takeaways for India and Partner Nations’ in New Delhi’.

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