India calls for collective efforts in Indian Ocean Region to tackle the present challenges of Maritime Security Scenario.
India hosted the much anticipated Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave on February 4, 2021, on the sidelines of the Aero India 2021. Themed “Enhanced Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region”, the conclave is an initiative to promote dialogue to foster the development of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
“India being the largest country and having a vast coastline of 7,500 km in the IOR region, has to play an active role for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all IOR countries,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during the conclave.
He said that this was an implementation of the concept of the Indian Ocean built around Security and Growth for All (SAGAR), visualised during PM Modi’s visit to Indian Ocean Island states in 2015. Defence Ministers from different IOR Countries like Maldives, Comoros, Iran, Madagascar, Ambassadors/High Commissioners representing countries like Australia, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kuwait and Myanmar, Defence Secretary of Sudan and Service Chiefs of many other countries took part physically in the conclave while many others joined virtually.
“We all have a shared asset that is the Indian Ocean. It’s an important lifeline to international trade and transport as it commands contol of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one of the world’s bulk cargo traffic,” Singh stated.
IOR is aimed to encourage dialogue in an institutional, economic and cooperative environment, address aspects related to defence industry co-operation amongst participating countries, sharing of resources available in Indian defence shipyards for design & shipbuilding, Indian ports with friendly countries, information-sharing towards increased maritime domain awareness, maritime surveillance and co-operation, Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief (HADR), marine pollution response activities, development of technologies and capabilities for harnessing marine resources, etc.
Talking about the maritime security scenario at present, the Minister said at the conclave, “The present maritime security scenario in IOR is posing a number of challenges piracy, smuggling of drugs/people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief & SAR, maritime collaboration and cooperation among IOR countries can help meet these challenges effectively. We have to join hands in looking at these threats in unison, because one’s threat today maybe another’s tomorrow,” said the Defence Minister. He also added that the IOR countries must ensure that the maritime expanse of the Indian Ocean is peaceful and optimally harnessed for the benefit of all nations in the region.
Many of the countries in this region are developing new technologies including defence shipyards for design and shipbuilding, which can be jointly harnessed. The Minister urged the IOR countries to take their economy, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration to a higher level. “Futures of the countries in the IOR region are interlinked and dependent on how effectively and efficiently we tackle present and emerging challenges and leverage opportunities in the Indian Ocean,” he said.
He also mentioned that India is ready to supply the various types of missile systems, LCA/Helicopters, Multi-purpose light transport aircraft, warship and patrol vessels, artillery gun systems, tanks, radars military vehicles, electronic warfare systems and other weapon systems to IOR nations. Our startup ecosystem is one of the largest and is fostering Innovation and technology development also in the field of defence and aerospace. IOR countries can leverage. This for mutual benefit.
During the Chiefs of Air Staff conclave, the Defence Minister had also noted that India’s unique disposition in the IOR complimented by a potent airlift capability of IAF enables it to contribute significantly in HADR missions.
The Government of India too has taken various policy initiatives to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea like Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and Asia Africa Growth Corridor, etc. India’s approach and vision to tackle global challenges has been highlighted by our PM as well in his dynamic 5 S vision which comprises of Samman (respect), Samvad (dialogue), Sahyog (cooperation), Shanti (peace) and Samriddhi (prosperity).
“We have taken the initiative to develop a comprehensive Maritime Domain awareness picture in the IOR, which has resulted in signing of technical agreements for sharing ‘White Shipping Information’ with many countries,” noted the Defence Minister, looking forward to enhancing discussions.
In addition to these efforts, an allocation of 4,000 crore over the next five years for the Deep Ocean Mission was also done recently in the Union Budget 2021. The Deep Ocean Mission is a part of the Blue Economy envisioned to be developed by 2030, and is likely to place India among select countries — US, France, Japan, Russia and China — to have special missions dedicated for ocean studies. The mission will involve collaboration of industry experts and displays Indian government’s resolve to explore and tap into the ocean prowess.
The IOR Defence Ministers’ Conclave is to be followed by two seminars. While the first seminar was conducted by Indian Navy and Naval Maritime Foundation, the second seminar is to be organised by Indian Coast Guard/Bharat Shakti/Invest India/Indian Defence Shipyards and Industry.