Deputy High Commissioner Sarah Storey's remarks at FICCI Seminar on “Preventing marine litter and plastic pollution”
(Check against delivery) 27 May 2022
Namaskar, Good morning and a very warm welcome from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.
It is a pleasure to be speaking at this seminar on preventing marine litter and plastic pollution through Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.
Thank you to FICCI, Southern Cross University, and the Pacific Islands Development Forum for hosting today.
I am proud that this seminar is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership.
And I’m particularly pleased to see representatives from Government, industry, and academia from across the Indo-Pacific.
Beyond India and Australia, it is especially pleasing to see our family from the Pacific Islands represented here today.
This event promises to be a valuable addition to our increasingly regular regional policy discussions.
Today’s program seeks to enhance maritime cooperation through sharing experiences and best practices towards the management and protection of coastal and marine ecosystems.
There is value in today’s discussion by bringing in industry voices, to engage with government, and identify how to strengthen regulatory frameworks to enable prosperity and sustainability for our oceans.
Because we know the two are not separate: ongoing prosperity for coastal communities relies on careful management of marine biodiversity and fisheries.
I want to start today’s discussion with some framing comments on the larger Indo-Pacific maritime context – and offer thoughts on how today’s seminar feeds into the “bigger picture”.
We often say that the Indo-Pacific is at a high tide.
The region is projected to account for two thirds of the world’s economic growth. By 2030, it will be home to a middle class of almost 3.5 billion people.
It’s also home to six of the world’s ten biggest military spenders.
As a result, strategic competition is sharpening across the region and testing state sovereignty of smaller partners.
Significantly, the international system is becoming more multi-polar.
Multi-polarity means that countries like India and Australia have a responsibility in ensuring a peaceful, inclusive, and resilient region.
A region where the rights of all states are respected. Where disputes are managed peacefully, legally, and without coercion.
And where open markets facilitate the flow of free trade, greater investment, and stronger people-to-people ties.
Creating such an order is something India’s Prime Minister Modi has called a ‘sacred duty’.
But neither of us – or any other country – can do it alone.
That’s why we welcome Prime Minister Modi’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).
Australia is proud to co-lead with India the maritime ecology pillar of the IPOI.
Through the IPOI, Australia and India can work closely together to help foster regional collaboration and capacity building that improves the health of our shared oceans.
The IPOI of course does not create new architecture but serves as a cross-cutting platform that enables practical cooperation on issues across all regional forums.
Because like India, and like our partners across the region, we are focused on delivering tangible and meaningful cooperation to uphold a regional maritime order aligned with all our interests.
We are working to address the maritime issues that matter to our friends across the region: whether it be marine litter and plastic, fisheries, upholding the law of the sea, free and open trading lanes, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
We recognise maritime ecology is an essential part of a prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific.
To also support this goal, earlier this year Australia announced we would enhance our engagement with the Northeast Indian Ocean.
This included three packages of initiatives, comprising a Bay of Bengal Maritime Partnership, a Bay of Bengal Trade and Energy Partnership, and a Bay of Bengal Connectivity Partnership.
These are among many more new actions Australia is taking to enhance our engagement with our maritime partners.
It is this focus on the tangible, the meaningful, and the practical that makes Australia a pragmatic partner on maritime issues.
It is why welcome the opportunity to hear the frontline experiences from industry and coastal communities from across the region.
So I wish you the very best for the next two days, and I look forward to seeing outcomes and policy recommendations, drawing on your frontline experiences and knowledge.
And I encourage you to also think big picture – about how these lessons can help uphold broader rules and norms in the sustainability and accessibility of our shared oceans.
I hope this is just the first of many more fruitful seminars, masterclasses, and roundtables.