July 11, 2011

Indian Ocean Community as an economic powerhouse

The time has come for constituting an Indian Ocean Community along the 63,000 miles of Indian Ocean Rim states, consisting of over 2 billion people, from South Africa to Australia.

Three developments provide an opportunity for India to act as a catalytic agent and work with World Bank to provide an impetus to constitute an Indian Ocean Community (IOC).

1. Trans-Asian Highway Project from Bangkok to Vladivostok is ripe for implementation.
2. Trans-Asian Railway Project from Bangkok to Vladivostok is ripe for implementation.
3. Law of the Sea has been amended to extended territorial waters upto 200 nautical miles (from the present 20 nautical miles) to provide for special economic zones.
4. With the experience gained implementing the historic Mekong Delta initiative, similar initiatives can be launched for other Himalayan rivers; Irrawadi, Salween, Yangtse, Huang Hwe, Brahmaputra Deltas, together with the constitution of a National Water Grid for the Indian subcontinent.

India, Indonesia, Thailand and other states of the Indian Ocean Rim should take the initiative in coordination with all countries of the region, to form an Indian Ocean Community (IOC). IOC will be a landmark move that can make a difference to most parts of the region still recovering from colonial suffocation of the development potential.

The formation of IOC will be a dedication to that savant, French epigraphist who wrote the monumental work, over 60 years ago: Les États Hindouisés D'Indochine Et D'Indonésie. Par George Coedés. (Histoīre du Monde publiée sous la direction de M. E. Cavaīgnac. Tome viii, 2.) pp. xi, 466. Paris: E. de Boccard, 1948.

The present UN Secretary General spoke of United States of Asia when he took office. IOC will make this vision a reality with IOC as a milestone.

There is a common cultural bond which unites all the nations of the Indian Ocean region. See the article dated 28 July 2010, titled Hindu influence in Indonesia by L.K. Advani on the abiding memory of contributions of Hindumahasagar countries. http://blog.lkadvani.in/

Samudra manthanam image in Suvarnaphom (suvarnabhumi) airport of Bangkok. Vishnu in the centre, his turtle avatar Kurma below, asuras and devas to left and right.

The recently adopted new brand logo for the Island of Bali is a tribute to Hindu traditions. Indonesian Ministry of tourism publication explains the logo: The triangle (shape of logo) is a symbol of stability and balance. It is formed out of three straight lines in which both ends meet, taking the symbols of a blazing fire (Brahma – the creator), lingga or phallus. The triangle also represents the three Gods of the universe (Trimurti – Brahma, Wisnu, and Siwa), three stages of nature (Bhur, Bwah and Swah Loka), and three stages of Life (Born, Live, and Die). The tagline ‘Shanti, Shanti, Shanti’ represents peace upon Bhuwana alit dan agung (yourself and the world) that will deliver a sacred and holy vibe that awakens a deep aura that balance and make peace to all living creatures.

Ganesh-inscribed 20,000 rupiah currency note of Bank Indonesia. Logo of Bandung Institute of Technology.

Indian Ocean Community (IOC) Rim states are already cooperating through the work of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC). It will take leadership of India to make IOC a reality at a pace faster than European Community which became a reality within 10 years and now has a common currency called the Euro.

Recently, the Law of the Sea has been ratified by the majority of member states of United States. The phenomenal opportunities provided by the new Law of the Sea extending the economic zone upto 200 nautical miles from the base coastline, have to be seized. The revision of the Law of the Sea is a revolutionary opportunity for all IOC nations; it just expands the economically exploitable ocean zone. For example, for India alone, this provides an opportunity to multiply the export earnings from aquatic resources 10-fold from the present level of Rs. 80000 million. There are other mineral resource exploitation possibilities in the extended territorial waters zone upto 200 nautical miles from the coastal base.

In coordination with multi-lateral institutions like the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and African Development Bank and several UN agencies, India and other IOC nations can use the satellite imaging technologies to map the resources of the Indian Ocean to be harnessed sustainably by the IOC partnering-member-states. Initiatives are already in place to prioritize the Trans-Asian Highway and Railway programs (linking Bangkok and Vladivostok through India and other IOC nations) which surpass the Mekong delta of a great Himalayan river initiative. IOC projects like these will have a wide, expansive reach, and impact on the lives of billions of people in IOC.

Krishna-Arjuna statue at Jakarta main square in front of Bank Indonesia

An updated page on the website http://sites.google.com/site/indianoceancommunity1/law-of-the-sea gives an overview on the revolutionary change brought about by the amended Law of the Sea (now ratified by 160 countries) and potential for development projects – Trans Asian Highway and Trans Asian Railway -- in the context of ocean issues and economic opportunities. To this will be added the use of satellite, ocean and information technologies to map the ocean resources and monitor security of maritime lanes with particular reference to the Straits of Malacca which constitute the veritable life-line of global commerce.

Just the European Economic Community and many regional Free Trade Agreements emerged as a reality from an idea of regional cooperation initiatives, the IOC will provide an institutional framework to create an economic multiplier effect to reach out to almost every interior village of most of the Asian region of the Indian Ocean Rim States. Just as OECD started with a databank on regional socio-economic integration information, India and other nations of IOC can join together to put together the Indian Ocean Community's potential for growth and new economic opportunities and call for an IOC countries' regional conference to deliberate on making IOC a reality.

Details of Trans Asian Highway and Railway Projects may be seen at http://sites.google.com/site/indianoceancommunity1/ These project will create an economic multiplier effect to benefit the millions of people with new business and economic opportunities.

Time is now for states of the Indian Ocean Rim to raise above the constraints and preoccupation with issues such as corruption, social inequality, ethnic demography, poverty, infiltration, hostile neighbours, terrorism, maritime security and set a goal which fulfils their destiny in the lands spanned by Himalayas and Indian Ocean.

This is an opportunity for the comity of nations to create Indian Ocean Community (IOC) as a 6 trillion dollar combined Gross Domestic Product, as a counterpoise to the European Community.

January 7, 2011

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