India Makes Maritime Security A Priority In Indian Ocean

Published Nov 19, 2012 11:31 AM by The Maritime Executive

Today, officials from 19 countries met to discuss cooperative efforts to strengthen maritime security throughout the Indian Ocean, ensuring safety in some of the busiest global shipping lanes.

A 10-year roadmap to promote trade and investment in the fast-growing economic region was created.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC) summarized their 12th meeting below:

Our Association turned 15 this year. Set up in 1997 with the primary objective of promoting “sustained growth and balanced development of the region and of its Member States, and create common ground for regional economic co-operation”, IORARC is the apex pan-Indian Ocean multilateral forum with its membership open to all sovereign States of the Indian Ocean rim that adhere to the principles and objectives of its Charter. Over the years, IORARC has helped build and expand understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation, and facilitated the creation of a regional climate conducive to peace and prosperity.

At our last meeting in Bengaluru in November 2011, we had identified six priority areas for our cooperation agenda, maritime security and piracy, disaster risk reduction, trade & investment facilitation, fisheries management, academic and S&T cooperation, and tourism and cultural exchanges. We believe that the outcome of the Bengaluru meeting has helped bring greater focus on our Association’s work. We are pleased to note that a number of useful cooperation initiatives have since been and are being taken in each of these priority areas.

The geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean cannot be underestimated. Its stability and well-being are critical for global economic prosperity, and even more so for the countries on its Rim. We are convinced that we can augment our capacities to deal with our common challenges in a more effective manner by forging enduring partnerships amongst ourselves. We support closer interaction between our Association and regional organizations in the Indian Ocean, such as the African Union.

Piracy is an increasingly serious concern, posing a threat to maritime commerce and the safety of sea farers, making insurance costlier and adding to the costs incurred by the shipping industry in the Indian Ocean Region. Weak governance and instability in parts of the region have contributed to its degeneration into transnational organized crime. We welcome the emphasis that our Association has placed on cooperation in maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean and reaffirm the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and safety and security of Sea Lanes of Communication in the Indian Ocean.

We note that several useful regional and multilateral initiatives to deliberate on various relevant aspects of the fight against piracy have been taken in the Indian Ocean region, and IORARC should consider ways of engaging with these where feasible and complementing each other’s efforts. We would like the IORARC seminar on maritime security scheduled for 2013 to consider concrete proposals of cooperation in this broad area, including institutionalization of a regional mechanism for continuing exchange of views and monitoring of the situation.

We believe that IORARC offers a useful platform for exchanging information on white shipping, and developing legislative frameworks and sharing best practices in coastal security and regulation of fishing activities in coastal waters.

We underscore the importance of better preparedness to fight natural and other disasters in our maritime domain. Cooperation in search and rescue and training in oil spill response are relevant areas for IORARC. We also acknowledge the need to develop cooperation among our agencies concerned to evolve regional disaster management strategies and operational processes.

Development of port and harbour infrastructure in the region assumes critical importance. We direct the Working Group on Trade and Investment to explore the potential of cooperation in this sector, including investment in and upgradation of shipping infrastructure and logistic chains in the region. This would act as an economic multiplier, facilitating growth in individual rim economies.

IORARC has developed valuable assets in the form of institutions, such as the Fisheries Support Unit, Maritime Transport Council and Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer. We welcome the activities undertaken by them in relevant priority areas on our agenda. We would like these institutions to develop into nodal centres of excellence and to network with other institutions in their respective fields in the region.

We attach high importance to our cooperation in the academic and S&T area. The IOR Academic Group should continue to pursue well-thought out initiatives of relevance to our region and member states, implement them in a timely manner, and consider possibilities of promoting exchanges of scholars and scientific and technical experts in this context. We encourage studies on areas of contemporary and regional significance for member States such as climate change, marine biology, coastal management, capacity building in ICT, analysis in investment promotion, etc. We express our appreciation at the successful hosting of IORARC programmes such as the meeting of Heads of National Archives and the mobile Exhibition of Archival material, and the workshop on Multidisciplinary Oceanographic Observations for Coastal Zone Management in India and encourage institutions in our region to develop an agenda for cooperation for action in these and other relevant subjects. We encourage member States to participate in different programmes organized under the Association.

We welcome the Union of Comoros as the 20th member of our Association. We have also decided to admit the United States of America as the 6th Dialogue Partner of IORARC.