External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday emphasised on the economic importance of the Indian Ocean and said nurturing a climate of peace and stability in this region is an important priority for India's foreign policy.
"There can be no doubt that the Indian Ocean is at the centre of the emerging ‘Age of Asia’. This region is host to the world’s busiest waterways and three-quarters of that traffic is headed for destinations beyond our region," Swaraj said while addressing the Third Indian Ocean Conference in Hanoi.
China has increased its footprints in the Indian Ocean and the move figures prominently in President Xi Jinping's ambitious 'One Belt, One Road' initiative to build a new Silk Route.
The 'One Belt, One Road' initiative is opposed by India as it includes the China Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) which transverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Activities by China in the Indian Ocean have increased as the nation is building ports and other infrastructure in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
"As an important trade and energy waterway, carrying half the world’s container shipment, one-third of its bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of oil shipments, the Indian Ocean clearly assumes importance well beyond its immediate shores and its littorals," Swaraj said.
"Nurturing a climate of peace and stability in this region is therefore an important priority for our foreign policy," she added.
"Hanoi is therefore a particularly appropriate setting for us to discuss developments in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region," said EAM Sushma Swaraj, as she stressed that India and Vietnam are not connected by only the common waters, but the two nations also share a vision for peace and prosperity.
Swaraj said the importance of sustainable use of our ocean resources cannot be overstated in an inter-dependent world characterised by enhanced economic and trade linkages.
"For us in India, the seas around us have nurtured our links of commerce and culture with our extended neighbourhood over millennia," she said.
The challenges within the region are quite similar despite the diversity, Swaraj said.
"Our vision for the region is one of cooperation and collective action," she said.
"We cannot tap the bounty of the Indian Ocean without ensuring maritime peace and stability. Economic prosperity and maritime security go hand-in-hand," Swaraj added.
The external affairs minister is in Vietnam on the first leg of her four-day two-nation tour, which aims at deepening India's strategic cooperation with Vietnam and Cambodia -- the key countries in the ASEAN region.