The Indian Ocean has been a fulcrum of Indian diplomacy. According to the Government of India, maritime trade accounts for about 75 percent value and more than 90 percent of volume of Indian trade. Possessing a population of two billion people with nine percent of world GDP, 12 percent of global exports and 18 percent of global investment flows, the IOR region has enormous economic potential to expand and grow.
India enjoys a strategic location within the Indian Ocean region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has endorsed the imperative to form a close connect with nations in the Indian Ocean Region during his visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in 2015 and his maiden trip to the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa in 2016.
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Countries of the Indian Ocean Rim Region are brought together under the umbrella of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). IORA will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary in March 2017. Indonesia, as the current Chair of IORA, will host the first ever IORA Leaders’ Summit on March 7, 2017 in Jakarta under the theme “Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean”.
The Summit will bring together the Leaders of the 21 IORA Member States and its seven dialogue partners. As a run up to the Summit, FICCI, in its capacity as the Business Secretariat of IORA in India, conducted a perception survey to understand the current sentiment within the Indian industry on the economic potential of India’s engagement with the Indian Ocean region. The companies surveyed share deep trade and investment linkages with the IOR region.
Responses were received from respondents across India and from participants of regional stakeholder consultations organized by FICCI in three metropolitan coastal cities including Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. The companies represent wide span of sectors including fisheries and aquaculture, renewable ocean energy, seaports and shipping, offshore hydrocarbons and seabed minerals, manufacturing, construction, electricity, gas and water supply, business services, trading and renting, banking and financial services, health and education and information and communication technology, to promote the Blue Economy as a driver for sustainable development; research and development; investment, technology transfer and capacity building.
An overwhelming majority of respondents were upbeat about opportunities for trade and investment expansion within IORA and complementarities that India can tap with IORA. Manufacturing both for IORA nations and for collaborative projects was rated quite high by the respondents reinforcing Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Moreover, better trade facilitation, appropriate dissemination channels, access to financial resources for smooth functioning of SMEs and innovative business models to encourage women entrepreneurship are some of the suggestive measures by the respondents to turn the region pro-business and investor friendly.