Connectivity has emerged as the linchpin of India’s foreign policy and has become integral to its expanding global presence. For India to progress in its aim to become a business hub for the world, connectivity through land, air and water would be the central focus. While major strides have been made in the air and land connectivity the maritime and riverine connectivity requires focussed attention. Maritime connectivity has wielded significant influence in that aspect and become the backbone of international trade and the global economy. This is backed by the fact that over 80 per cent of all international trade in goods by volume is carried by sea, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). India’s maritime sector too contributes 95 per cent to its trade by volume and 70 per cent by value.
The country is strategically located in the world’s shipping routes with a coastline of approximately 7,517 km and is posed for exponential growth in the coming years, shaping not just its own growth trajectory but also fostering regional advancement. The cargo handling by major ports in India registered a growth of 10.4 per cent over the previous yearand handled the highest-ever cargo at 795 million tonnes in FY23. The combination of these factors augurs well for the nation’s economic growth and its place in the global maritime landscape. The Indian Government also expects exponential growth in the sector, aiming for the overall cargo handling capacity at its sea and river ports to grow nearly 300 per cent by 2047.
(Re)Establishing Linkages and Connectivity
Over recent decades, India has spearheaded a gamut of initiatives aimed at establishing connectivity corridors across its Eastern and Western fronts. Lines of Credit have been channelled into building physical infrastructure, renewable energy and trade facilitation, focusing on fostering historic linkages ingrained in India’s cultural heritage. The Government has also launched ambitious programs including Sagarmala and Mausam to harness the nation’s maritime assets. To promote India’s shipping and port Industry, various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives have also been launched for enterprises that develop, maintain and operate ports, inland waterways and shipbuilding in India.
The emphasis on the potential of Eastern India underscores the significance of the Bay of Bengal and Eastern South Asia in fuelling growth corridors and revitalizing ancient maritime ties. The Maritime India Vision 2030, with over 150 initiatives, also aims to bolster the maritime sector. Allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) under both government and automatic routes has also propelled growth in the sector, opening doors for seasoned international players to bring in their expertise.
India’s maritime industry, ranking 16th globally and standing as the 3rd largest in ship recycling by tonnage, reaffirms its pivotal role in global maritime networks. As of 2021, India owns over 30 per cent global market share in the ship-breaking Industry and is home to the largest ship-breaking facility in the world at Alang. India’s maritime connectivity, encapsulating trade, cultural exchanges, and strategic initiatives, serves as a testament to its commitment to fostering not just economic growth but also enduring relationships across borders. As India continues to invest in its maritime prowess, the prospects for regional integration and global trade seem boundless, paving the way for a future steeped in connectivity, cooperation and shared prosperity.
International Conference: Purvodaya Perspectives
To uncover the latent possibilities presented by the eastern seaboard including Odisha’s coastline and port cities in the realm of maritime trade, a maritime connectivity dialogue is being organized in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on 2 – 3 December. CII in partnership with the Energy Forum (TEF) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), GoI is organizing the dialogue “International Conference: Purvodaya Perspectives”. Connectivity will be the central theme of the dialogue and draw on merchandise promotion, port and hinterland connectivity.
The conference will address key issues including:
• Can connectivity further India’s economic, political and strategic outreach and anchor Purvodaya as the lynchpin of growth corridors? Can initiatives like energy grids and cross-border pipelines further the trade machinery and deliver India’s foreign policy goals?
• Can India’s maritime connectivity, HADR and maritime outreach help in fostering India’s economic and strategic footprint?
• Can regional hard and soft measures such as maritime hubs and finance, insurance and skilling measures foster a future pan-regional integration as sustainable development takes centre stage in development priorities?
• Can deep civilizational linkages and cultural connections be explored to build bridges with South-East Asia with the past acting as a guide to the future?
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