Event ReportsPublished on Mar 30, 2018
‘India’s Maritime Connectivity: Importance of the Bay of Bengal’: Report released

In 2017, the Prime Ministers of India and Japan underscored their commitment for a partnership towards achieving free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, said Masayuki Taga, Consul General, Consulate-General of Japan in Kolkata while releasing the ORF maritime connectivity project report, India’s Maritime Connectivity: Importance of the Bay of Bengal on 26 March 2018 at Observer Research Foundation’s Kolkata chapter.

Given that the Indian Ocean have a transnational character, the ORF report focuses on the dynamics of India's maritime connectivity in the Bay of Bengal. How to ensure reliable, uninterrupted and safe movement of people, goods, energy and resource supplies throughout the Indian Ocean, has become a major concern for both India and Japan.

The report also appraises of the geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic dimensions of the connectivity linkages between India and the Bay adjacent countries - Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka along with India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands with respect to trade, population flow and fiscal connectivity. Exchange of information, capacity building and the provision of technical assistance amongst the Bay adjacent countries are important elements for cooperation in enhancing the political will to address the challenges of maritime safety and security. The report also delves into the strategic imperatives of the role and interest of major powers in the Bay of Bengal.

Delivering the introductory comments, Prof. Rakhahari Chatterji, Adviser, ORF Kolkata said that the final report is the outcome of a year-long study which comprised field visits to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and major and minor ports on the eastern coast of India. He also underscored that the study was conducted in consultation with stakeholders like government officials and policy makers, private operators, think tanks, academics and revised rigourously with their feedback and suggestions.

The release of the report by Mr. Taga was followed by a presentation of the highlights by Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Project Coordinator and Fellow, ORF Kolkata. She focused on the main elements of the study: Port Connectivity, The Importance of Inland Waterways and Strategic Convergences and Divergences in the Bay and mentioned the broad structure of the report and the nature of study conducted by the research team at ORF Kolkata. She also pointed out that the importance of the Andaman Islands in India’s maritime role in the Bay has been addressed in the report along with the role that the islands can play with respect to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response efforts.

A brief presentation on the key findings and ensuing policy recommendations was given by Pratnashree Basu, Associate Fellow, ORF Kolkata which covered: Strengthening India’s port logistics to foster connectivity with Bay littorals; Developing Andaman and Nicobar Islands to promote connectivity; Enhancing connectivity with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh; facilitation of dialogue with stakeholders; strategic dialogues for a shared security infrastructure; a more integrated and effective HADR in the Bay and an expanded maritime role for BIMSTEC.

Speaking about the report, Mr. Taga mentioned that it encompassed a number of issues and would become a useful reference for stakeholders, practitioners, policy makers and academicians. He also highlighted that it was important to boost the pace of developing connectivity in India’s northeastern states which was vital to enhancing further links in the region towards South East Asia.

Mr. Taga also talked about Japan’s involvement in and financial investments for the realisation of these goals and appreciated the report’s emphasis on the importance of Bay of Bengal connectivity extending to the land-locked countries of Nepal and Bhutan through the effective utilisation of inland waterways.

This report was compiled by Pratnashree Basu, Associate Fellow, ORF Kolkata

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