Nepal was one of the 19 participating countries during the "China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation" organized by China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), a foreign aid agency of the People's Republic of China, last week.
On behalf of Nepal, Ishwari Aryal, joint secretary at the Ministry of Finance addressed the event virtually which took place in hybrid format under the theme of "Shared Development: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of the Blue Economy" in Kunming, the capital of China's Southwestern Yunnan Province.
Joint Secretary Aryal said that he joined and addressed the conference on virtual mode.
"I talked about the importance of blue economy for us (Nepal) and also reiterated that we are ready to work with all countries in the Indian Ocean to address the challenges pertaining to climate change and economy," he told Nepalkhabar on Sunday.
This is the first time Nepal participated in the regional forum hosted by China focusing on the development cooperation among the countries in the Indian Ocean Region.
During the conference, high-level representatives of Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, Australia and representatives of three international organizations were present, according to the CIDCA website.
India was not present
According to Indian media reports, India was not present in the conference. The Hindu newspaper reported that all of India’s neighbors including Nepal were present, except for India itself. It termed the conference as China's strategic initiative.
The conference comes at a time when global powers are jostling for their influence in the Indian Ocean Region. The US, China and India are considered as major strategic players in the region. The US has already launched the Indo Pacific Strategy (IPS) which aims to contain China militarily. India and Australia have strongly backed IPS pushed forward by the United States for the first time in 2018.
China proposes two fresh initiatives
After the conference, a joint statement has been issued by the participating countries. According to the joint statement posted on the official CIDCA website, all parties reviewed the current severe challenges facing marine ecology and marine economic recovery and development, as well as recent positive progress made in the development and international cooperation in relevant fields.
"In the meantime, they also had an in-depth exchange of views and reached broad consensus on how to further implement "United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development" and unleash the potential of blue economy, deepen development cooperation, and jointly promote global development," read the joint statement.
While expressing deep concern over Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, increasing disaster risks, marine biodiversity loss, marine pollution, and their impact on economic and social stability and development that countries in the region have suffered, the participating countries believed that proper protection and use of marine resources play a vital role in building a sustainable future.
"Besides, they emphasized that it is necessary to strengthen policy coordination, deepen development cooperation, increase resilience to shocks and disasters, and enhance relevant countries' capacity to obtain economic benefits through use of marine resources such as fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and shipping in a sustainable way," read the press release.
All the participating countries appreciated China' s support for setting up China-Africa Satellite Remote Sensing Application Center, and providing training for personnel in the field of blue economy to countries in need, according to the statement.
"They stressed that response to Covid-19, climate change, ocean governance and other non-traditional security issues requires concerted efforts of all countries in the World. Moreover, they encouraged all countries and all sectors to jointly address non-traditional security challenges and participate in global development cooperation, so as to forge a united, equal, balanced and inclusive global development partnership," read the press release.
All stakeholders were invited to foster an enabling environment for sustainable ocean protection and blue economy development.
Furthermore, developed countries and multilateral development institutions were encouraged to better align their official development assistance with the needs of developing countries and provide more resources for sustainable global development.
Apart from that, all the participating countries were ready to further strengthen and expand South-South cooperation among developing countries as a supplement to North-South cooperation.
"All parties expressed readiness to work with each other to practice true multilateralism and achieve a stronger, greener and healthier global development, and to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, read the press release.
During the Kunming conference, China proposed to establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region, and stood ready to provide necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need.
Likewise, China also proposed the establishment of a blue economy think tank network for China and countries in the Indian Ocean region with the support of Yunnan.
"These proposals were welcomed by all participants who were willing to support the establishment of a cooperation mechanism for disaster prevention and mitigation, and join the think tank network," read the press release.
During the conference, the participating countries thanked China for hosting this China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation, spoke highly of the positive role of Global Development Initiative (GDI) in promoting global development and expected institutional holding of this forum.
Nepal joined similar forums hosted by India in the past
In the past, Nepal joined the similar forum hosted by southern neighbor India in 2019 and 2021 and stressed the need for peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. In December last year, Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal had attended the Fifth Indian Ocean Conference in Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates. The foreign secretary had said that peace and stability in the Indian Ocean are equally important for countries like Nepal.
Prior to that, the then Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali had taken part the fourth Indian Ocean Conference in the Maldives in 2021 which was jointly organized by India Foundation, an Indian government-supported think tank, the Government of the Maldives and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.