He said an estimated 40 percent of the world offshore oil comes of the Indian Ocean with large reserves in the seas off Saudi Arabia, Iran, India and Western Australia.
Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said countries in the Indian Ocean bear the primary responsibility for its peace, stability and prosperity as she underlined the need to keep it safe and secure.
Underlining the importance of the Indian Ocean in global commerce, Swaraj noted that its sea lanes were one of the busiest and most critical maritime transportation links in the world, with nearly 100,000 ships passing through annually, carrying about half the world's container shipments, one-third of the world's bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of its oil shipments.
Sri Lanka meant to become a logistics hub, promoting free trade and commerce in the Indian Ocean, but there were growing conflicts in states bordering the Indian Ocean, where other powers were also involved. Swaraj, who is here to attend the 2nd Indian Ocean Conference, met Wickremesinghe on the sidelines of the two-day meeting. The theme of the conference is Peace, Progress and Prosperity for the Indian Ocean Region.
"We hope to carry forward this dialogue", he said. A recent Chinese naval white paper underlined the growing importance of the Indian Ocean for communication. Apart from establishing a naval base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, China is now building ports in Sri Lanka's Hambantota and Pakistan's Gwadar.
"Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our Ports and Airports".
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In a bid to counter the Chinese moves, Indian naval ships have increased their port calls to countries in the Indian Ocean littoral-like Oman and South Africa.
The minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's program SAGAR is aimed at building trust among nations in the region and develop coherent framework for economic revival. Swaraj said these are enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories and interests; deepening economic and security cooperation; promoting collective action to deal with natural disasters and threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors among others.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said in the absence of an effective multilateral trade agreement for the Indian Ocean region, Sri Lanka made a decision to enter into bilateral agreements with the neighbouring littoral states.
"We continue to work on a range of projects to improve maritime logistics in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles".
Analyst C. Uday Bhaskar with the Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies think tank welcomed Swaraj's comments on the Indian Ocean region.
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