How Norway and India Can Help Each Other Deliver a Blue Economy Boom
The importance of the oceans is clear, but if climate change, marine litter and oil spills continue unhindered, there will not be any money to be made in the blues
Nils Ragnar Kamsvåg
When Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited New Delhi to talk to Indian PM Narendra Modi in the beginning of 2019, it was a meeting between two leaders of maritime nations.
Both have voiced their ambitions for the ocean space — Modi through his vision of ‘Sustainability and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR), and Solberg through the establishment and chairing of a high-level panel for a sustainable ocean economy. Therefore, it was no surprise that oceans were on top of the agenda during Solberg’s visit.
The importance of the oceans is clear. Global population growth will increase the demand for jobs and social development. The need for food, energy and minerals will grow steadily, and we are already pushing the limits of what we can deliver on land.
Seen from a Norwegian perspective, it is clear that only the ocean can meet this need, if managed in a sustainable manner. And since neither fish nor water respect our sovereign borders, this can only be done if we all work together.
From an Indian perspective, Norway might not be the first partner that comes to mind. We are a much smaller country, located far away in the cold northwestern corner of Europe. That being said, our territorial waters are about the same size as India’s. We are world leaders in technologies for offshore oil and gas, fishing, aquaculture and green shipping technologies.
We are the world’s second biggest exporter of seafood, third biggest exporter of gas and our shipping fleet is the fifth largest in the world. In fact, two thirds of our export revenue comes from the oceans. For us, this blue economy has delivered an economic boom unlike any other.
In my opinion, the next blue economy boom will be in the Indian Ocean. It is along its shores, from the continent of Africa to India and down South-East Asia, that we find the strongest growth in population and in economic activity. The Indian Ocean is filled with precious resources. As much as 40% of global offshore oil extraction and 15% of global fishing is done in its waters, with plenty more resources waiting to be extracted.
In the Indian Ocean, we also find the highways of the seas. Growing trade between Asia and Europe was only made possible by the many shipping routes here. About 64% of all maritime oil transport touches the Indian Ocean, meaning that the global economy would simply grind to a halt if this lifeline was cut off.
On one hand, these shipping lanes are a global common good, and it is the responsibility of us all to make sure they remain open. On the other hand, this also means opportunities in terms of harbours, ship servicing and shipbuilding.
India is extraordinarily well situated to benefit from an Indian Ocean boom. On the map, India looks like the tip of a spear, pointing at its rightful home in the middle of the ocean.
It will soon overtake China as the world’s most populous nation and it is also the G20 economy with the highest growth rate.
However, what makes us ideal partners in ocean management is the fact that we are both democracies with a strong commitment to international law and norms.
Cooperation is crucial to protect the oceans, but in order to cooperate, we must have a shared understanding of the rules of play.
As PM Solberg said when she inaugurated the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, smaller countries take note when larger countries, like India, dismiss the concept of “might makes right”.
One clear threat to a healthy blue economy is sustainability. If climate change, marine litter and oil spills continue unhindered, there will not be any money to be made in the oceans. Indeed, if plastic waste continues at current rates, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
India is in the forefront with bans on plastic waste, determined targets in renewable energy and ambitious goals for electric vehicles. Norway hopes to contribute in any way it can, I am particularly hopeful when it comes our technology for LNG, or battery-powered ships.
A key event during PM Solberg’s visit was the signing of a memorandum of understanding on an “ocean dialogue”. The focus of the agreement is to harness the potential of the blue economy to promote economic growth, job creation, trade and investment and contribute to food security and poverty alleviation, whil safeguarding the ocean’s health through sustainable development of its resources.
In short, we now stand prepared to cooperate to reap the fruits of the blue economy, while joining forces to deal with shared threats in the ocean space.
Our two countries are separated by great distances, but the ocean joins us. We are both proud ocean nations with long histories of maritime exploits.
The waves that roll onto our shores all come from the same ocean, the very same ocean that will continue to provide us with food, jobs and energy going forward.
And so, we all find ourselves in the same boat, all depending on each other to sustainably manage the blue economy. Fortunately, with experienced Norwegian and Indian seamen at the helm, we have a good chance of successfully navigating the choppy waves headed in our direction.
The author is the Norwegian ambassador to India. Views expressed are personal
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