Economic giants sail in Indian Ocean
Posted on January 1st, 2014

By Madura Ranwala Courtesy Island

Navy Commander Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage, delivering the keynote address at the Marine Conversation Conference held at the BMICH recently, said, the history was repeating itself as the country had stepped into an era of renaissance with Indian Ocean becoming the key ocean in the 21st century.

He stressed that the country was faced with the problem of Indian fishermen poaching in the post conflict era and banned fishing methods being employed by the fishers.

The Navy Commander said: “We had the ship building capability and repair capability and we became the centre of the sea borne trade as great explorers like Ptolemy from the west and Chinese Admiral Zheng Hi from the east have visited here. These are not my words; they are from the chronicles, stone inscriptions, various other excavated archeological materials, coins etc that Sri Lanka was the centre of trade at the time, especially during the ancient silk route time. Now I believe the history is repeating itself. Now I believe we are going through a marine renaissance. We have the potential to be the centre of the new silk route.”

“When we look at the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean which played a pivotal role in the world affairs. Whether it was war, economic development or technological development, those two oceans played a key role.”

The Navy Commander said, however, that the Indian Ocean was playing an even more important role than the Pacific Ocean in world affairs at the moment as 70% of the world oil and 50% of world’s container traffic passed through the Indian Ocean. “And we all know emerging economic giants and emerging maritime powers are either in the Indian Ocean or very close to the Indian Ocean; namely India and China. Hence, the world system, the world economy, the world trade all depends on the Indian Ocean. In this context, where is Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, I would argue the best possible location one can imagine of. We are at the center of the Indian Ocean equi-distance from the land on to the east and to the west with our southern neighbours being penguins.”

He said five Russian ships, two Japanese ships and once Indian ship had visited the Colombo Port.

“Imagine eight war ships in one harbour within a week.”

Their stay had helped the country’s economy as they had spent money to obtain bunkers and services.

Referring to DMK president M. Karunanidhi’s claim that Sri Lanka Navy was turning the Bay of Bengal into an air prison, the Navy Chief said, “Sorry sir, we are not doing that, we are only protecting ourselves. We are not interfering in their business.”

Vice Admiral Colombage said: “This I heard from the Chief Incumbent of the Mirisawetiya temple in Anuradhapura, The Chief Prelate told me about the ocean. I am not going to deliberate this point but this is food for thought. The venerable Priest told me that the ocean tastes salty everywhere, the ocean deepens gradually, what we put into the ocean is thrown back to the shore, ocean has many riches, gold, diamond, the oil but she is not proud, ocean knows its limits, it always end up at the coast, ocean treats every fish alike, many rivers are bringing water to the ocean but it remains the same, the ocean is always for others.”

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