8th Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting

New Delhi, India

Shri A. K. Antony, Defense Minister of India,
Admiral D.K Joshi, The Chief of Navy Naval Staff of Indian Navy,
Inspector General Rajendra Singh, Deputy Director General Indian Coast Guard,
Honorable Heads of the Asian Coast Guard Agencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my sincere respect to the representatives of the coast guards of Asian countries who have gathered here to discuss issues affecting Coast Guards in Asia’s vast seas. I am most grateful to the Government of India, the Indian Ministry of Defense, and our host the Indian Coast Guard for their warm welcome to New Delhi and their enormous efforts in hosting the eighth of these important meetings.

I also wish to convey my words of sympathy to Vice Admiral M. P. Muralidaran, Director General Indian Coast Guard for his sudden illness. I truly respect his excellent leadership in preparing for this meeting and sincerely pray for his early recovery.

The Nippon Foundation has had the honour of supporting these meetings since the first one in 2004. At the time, maritime issues involving multiple countries were beginning to attract a lot of attention from the international community. We decided to support you, moved by your desire and your sense of mission to “protect nations, humankind and the sea” in the pressing need to build partnerships among coast guards of the Asian region. I am, therefore, personally committed to do all I can to see that your dedication to this vital mission will achieve positive results.

The main theme of that first meeting was contending with pirates. I remember vividly our lively discussions focusing on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. At that time, it was easier for Asian countries to unite around their common task of dealing with this threat. Reference was made to the decisive action of the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy in resolving the hijacking of the Alondra Rainbow. The ship was hijacked in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, but recaptured off the Indian coast by this country’s Coast Guard and Navy. This was an extremely important precedent for international teamwork against pirates.

Today, the safety of the seas, particularly those of Asia that cover such a large area, is becoming increasingly vital. Maritime transportation, for example, is expanding as the economies of the Asian region develop. As Asian populations increase, there is an ever greater demand on fishery resources. I feel that the relationship between our lives and the sea is deepening day by day.

The issues that coast guards must deal with to protect Asian waters are growing in number and complexity. They are beyond the capability of any one country to resolve. These include piracy, which threatens much wider areas than in the past, maritime terrorism, illegal fishing of the region’s limited resources, and natural disasters.

It may well be that the systems and measures for collaboration on which we have relied on in the past are not sufficient in the face of these complex challenges. Also, because of the broad array of issues that present-day maritime security organizations are called on to address, it is harder to determine the collective response as these issues arise.

Under these circumstances, The Nippon Foundation would like to see the Meeting of Commanders set concrete tasks and have thorough discussions on tackling these complex challenges. I trust that you will make this a fruitful meeting, building on the future initiatives you considered at the last meeting in Vietnam.

The Nippon Foundation has supported your meetings to date and will continue to support you in your courageous work. To reinforce our practical contribution, we will further bolster maritime human resources programmes in collaboration with universities and research institutions around the world.

I am confident that by cooperating even more closely, we will be able to bequeath safe and bountiful seas to Asia’s next generation.

Thank you very much.