India’s first UNSC debate pushes for multilateral maritime cooperation

Prime Minister Modi chaired the historic debate on maritime trade and security, highlighting key issues for concerted global response

August 9, 2021

Piracy, climate change, overfishing, drug and human trafficking were identified as the dominant issues for resolution.

Water bodies including Somalian waters, Gulf of Guinea, the Malacca Strait and Persian Gulf were identified as certain hotbeds.

PM Modi presented an agenda covering connectivity, dispute resolution, barriers to trade and climate change.

The delegates advocated for a rules-based approach towards the blue economy, trade and cooperation.

In a historic first, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian representative to host a multilateral discussion at the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) held on August 9. The discussion was on “Enhancing Maritime Security – A Case for International Cooperation,” where the PM outlined contingencies surrounding global maritime trade and activity and urged fellow participants to join hands in fostering sustainable fishing practices. 

The issues outlined for remediation included the arresting of piracy and armed attacks, examining overfishing practices, mitigating the impact of climate change on water bodies, and effectively curbing human and drug trafficking activity. All participants identified the Gulf of Guinea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, South China Sea, the Singapore and Malacca Straits, Atlantic Sea regions, Somalian waters, and the Strait of Hormuz as important sites of intervention. 

Prime Minister Modi proposed a five-point agenda for maritime security: 

  • Removing barriers to legitimate maritime trade – Citing the role of the Lothal port to the once-thriving Indus Valley Civilization, the Prime Minister presented India as a strong participant in global maritime trade. He maintained that the SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) vision was formulated with the objective of facilitating safe, secure, and stable maritime trade for global prosperity. 
  • Instituting mechanisms for speedy and amicable dispute resolution – Following an amicable rules-based approach to maritime activity was identified as an integral part of multilateral cooperation in the domain. 
  • Strengthening regional and multilateral response to natural disasters and non-State actors –  Multilateral cooperation in multiple domains including surveillance, hydrographic surveys, information exchange and the training of maritime personnel through bilateral endeavors could shape the future of maritime relations. 
  • Enhancing maritime sustainability- Overfishing, plastic waste accumulation in water bodies, and oil spills were three issues outlined for remediation. Given the impact that climate change has already had and will continue to have on the world, the Prime Minister called for a practical and sustainable approach towards fishing and maritime activity. 
  • Increasing multilateral maritime connectivity – While making the case for improved connectivity, Prime Minister Modi appealed for the consideration of participant nations’ fiscal predicament prior to embarking on such programmes. 

The meeting was attended by heads of state and government of member states of the UNSC, among others from key regional organizations. India has assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August.