Keynote Address - Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) Conference
Development of an Indo-Pacific Framework Integrating the Seven IPOI Pillars
6 October, 9am [Pre-recording – 4 October @ 4.30pm]
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Good morning and a very warm welcome.
It is a pleasure to be speaking today to open this conference on the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, or IPOI.
Thank you to the team at University of Wollongong and OP Jindal University for hosting today. Thank you also to all the participants and observers from across the region.
I am proud that this conference is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia India IPOI Partnership.
This conference promises to be a valuable addition to our growing understanding of regional maritime cooperation.
Importantly, I am pleased to see this conference will seek practical recommendations on how to advance collaboration and capacity building across the pillars of the IPOI.
I am hopeful this conference will advance strong ideas to deliver substantive outcomes.
For Australia, there is an urgent need to ensure our maritime region – the Indo-Pacific – remains healthy, prosperous, and secure.
There is value in today’s discussion by bringing together voices from across the region to identify how to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation that enables prosperity and sustainability for our oceans.
Because we know the two are not separate: ongoing prosperity for coastal communities relies on careful management of marine biodiversity, effective emergency and disaster responses, and sustainable fisheries, among many other policy interventions.
Our shared Indo-Pacific
I want to start today’s discussion with some framing comments on the larger Indo-Pacific maritime context – and offer thoughts on how today’s discussion feeds into the “bigger picture”.
We often say that the Indo-Pacific is at a high tide.
The region is projected to account for two thirds of the world’s economic growth. By 2030, it will be home to a middle class of almost 3.5 billion people.
It’s also home to six of the world’s ten biggest military spenders.
As a result, strategic competition is sharpening across the region and testing state sovereignty of smaller partners.
Significantly, the international system is becoming more multi-polar.
Multi-polarity means that countries like India and Australia have a responsibility in ensuring a peaceful, inclusive, and resilient region.
A region where the rights of all states are respected. Where disputes are managed peacefully, legally, and without coercion.
And where open markets facilitate the flow of free trade, greater investment, and stronger people-to-people ties.
Creating such an order is something India’s Prime Minister Modi has called a ‘sacred duty’.
But neither of us – or any other country – can do it alone.
Australia and India in the Indo-Pacific
It’s why together, Australia and India are spearheading efforts to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free and open.
At our heart, Australia and India are both Indo-Pacific nations.
We share the Indian Ocean – one of the world’s greatest maritime resources.
Our geography places us squarely in the middle of the world’s strategic centre of gravity.
And as the world becomes more multi-polar, the region’s resilience will be tested.
In June 2020, in PM Modi’s first Virtual Leaders’ Summit, we elevated our bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
We also signed a series of high impact, practical agreements to advance strategic and economic cooperation across a range of areas.
Included in this was Australia’s agreement to co-lead with India on the maritime ecology pillar of the IPOI.
Australia and the IPOI
Australia welcomes India’s IPOI.
Through the IPOI, Australia and India can work closely together to help foster regional collaboration and capacity building that improves the health of our shared oceans.
The IPOI does not create new architecture but serves as a cross-cutting platform that enables practical cooperation on issues across all regional forums.
India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar has described the IPOI as “structure-light and cooperation-heavy”.
As emphasised by India and ASEAN nations last year, the IPOI also complements the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
It is a framework that recognises ASEAN Centrality, and seeks to work through the existing ASEAN-led regional architecture, in addition to other institutions such as the Pacific Islands Forum and Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Australia welcomes this concept as we recognise the benefits of practical and responsive initiatives.
We appreciate cooperation that works through existing regional architecture to build capacity, ensure resilience, and deliver results.
Because like India, we are focused on delivering tangible and meaningful outcomes to uphold a regional maritime order aligned with our shared interests.
We are working to address the maritime issues that matter to our friends across the region: whether it be marine litter and plastic, fisheries, upholding the law of the sea, free and open trading lanes, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
We recognise maritime ecology is an essential part of a prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific.
Australia in the Indian Ocean
To also support this goal, earlier this year Australia announced we would enhance our engagement with the Northeast Indian Ocean.
This included initiatives centred on trade, connectivity, maritime domain awareness, and disaster preparedness in the Bay of Bengal.
Australia and India are also cooperating with greater frequency and complexity in the Pacific, in close coordination with our Pacific Island neighbours.
These are among many more new actions Australia and India are taking to support the maritime Indo-Pacific.
It is this focus on the tangible, the meaningful, and the practical that makes Australia a pragmatic partner on maritime issues.
It is why welcome the opportunity to hear the expert insights and experiences on how to advance cooperation under the IPOI.
We want to ensure our work on maritime ecology dovetails with work being done by our other Indo-Pacific partners under the IPOI.
It is through conferences such as this one, that we can better design and coordinate actions under the IPOI that advance our security and prosperity.
I wish you the very best for the discussions over the next two days, and I look forward to delving further into the policy recommendations.
And I encourage you to also think big picture – about how these discussions can help uphold broader rules and norms in our shared oceans.
I hope this is just the first of many more fruitful reports, seminars, masterclasses, and roundtables to benefit a much wider audience.