India unveils multibillion-dollar maritime projects
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday laid the foundation stone for projects worth more than 230 billion rupees ($2.7 billion) as part of the long-term blueprint for the country’s maritime sector. New Delhi is aiming to build “reliable and resilient” supply chains after disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and Western nations’ sanctions policies.
Inaugurating the three-day Maritime India Summit 2023 in Mumbai, Modi called on investors to “come to India, walk with us on the path towards development.” “A new world order is emerging and the whole world is looking towards India with new expectations,” he said, adding that “the day is not far when India will be regarded as one of the top three economies in the world.”
Stressing that India’s maritime capabilities have always “benefited the world,” Modi noted his government’s efforts to strengthen the sector over the past nine years. According to the Indian leader, this includes doubling the capacity of major ports, reducing the turnaround time for large vessels, the construction of new roads to increase port connectivity, and strengthening coastal infrastructure under the ‘SagarMala’ initiative.
Modi also underlined the “transformative impact” of the proposed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), the concept of which was unveiled during the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi in September.
The prime minister laid the foundation stone for the key Tuna Tekra all-weather deep draft terminal at the Deendayal Port Authority in western India’s Gujarat state, to be built at a cost of 45 billion rupees ($540 million), which is envisaged as a gateway for trade through the IMEC corridor. “This corridor will transform the picture of regional and global trade,” Modi said, suggesting it will help “reduce business costs, increase logistical efficiency, reduce damage to the environment, and generate a large number of jobs.”
While experts have underscored the challenges the IMEC could face, mainly due to the geopolitical complexities of the region and the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the near-term prospects for the initiative are unclear.
Modi noted the government’s focus on the ship-building and repair sector, predicting that “India is going to become one of the top five ship-building nations in the coming decade. Our Mantra is ‘Make in India – Make for the world’.”
The Indian leader also pointed to his nation’s efforts to promote maritime tourism as a means to generate more revenue. “India has a long coastline, a strong marine heritage, and a rich cultural heritage. Together, these present us with a possibility to further develop maritime tourism,” Modi said. He added that with the development of new cruise projects, India is rapidly moving towards becoming a “global cruise hub.” Notably, India and Sri Lanka on Saturday launched a ferry service across the Palk Strait under a new plan for greater connectivity. The service is expected to boost travel and trade with Kankesanthurai, the Sri Lankan port located closest to ports on India’s east coast.
Sarbananda Sonowal, India’s minister of ports, shipping, and waterways, announced ahead of the maritime summit that New Delhi expects to generate investments of up to 10 trillion rupees ($120 billion) and sign over 300 agreements as an outcome of the event. In an article authored by the minister in the run-up to the event, he said policy reforms in the shipping and logistics sector have ushered in a new wave of investments, greater ease of doing business, and exponential economic growth along national waterways. In total, 111 inland routes stretching over 20,000km have been identified by the government for potential cargo and passenger transportation.
The first Maritime India summit, held in 2016 in Mumbai, resulted in almost $10 billion in deals but also played a key role in highlighting “port-led development for faster and sustainable economic growth,” the Indian government said in a press release. The second summit was held virtually in 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Maritime India Vision 2030’, a ten-year blueprint with the aim of “overhauling the Indian maritime sector” unveiled during the previous edition of the summit, identified over 150 initiatives across ports, shipping, and waterways sub-sectors, which will propel the Indian maritime sector to its next level of growth.