Maritime Security an Important Dimension of India’s Bilateral Relations: Foreign Secretary

November 07, 2017

New Delhi: Describing maritime security as an important dimension of India’s bilateral relations with all Indian Ocean states and regional bodies, Foreign Secretary, Government of India, Dr S Jaishankar today said that ‘as the Indian Ocean takes a centre stage in the 21st century, the onus is on us, as equal stakeholders, to collectively secure and nurture our oceanic states.’
Dr Jaishankar was speaking at the Second IORA Meeting of Experts for Maritime Safety and Security, held at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) on November 7-8, 2017.

Observing that maritime safety and security is a multi-faceted issue, especially in the realm of non-traditional threats, the Foreign Secretary said that challenges like maritime terrorism, smuggling, transnational crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration etc, compounded by natural disasters, oil spills and effects of climate change are threats and challenges that impinge on the national interests of IORA nations. These threats conspicuously highlight the acute and imperative need for protection of the sea lanes of communications, he pointed out.

Dr Jaishankar noted that the economic dimensions and the security challenges in the IOR have together defined the Naval and national strategies of nations within the region and beyond. Regional cooperation within the IOR will become increasingly important in order to ensure the safety and security of vital trade routes, particularly the choke points, he added. India itself conducts nearly 40 per cent of its trade with the littoral nations along the Indian Ocean Rim and the Indian government has been working with like-minded countries to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of the maritime domain.

Recognising the global importance of maritime trade in the increasingly globalized world, India supports freedom of navigation and promotes unimpeded commerce, based on the principle of international laws, added Dr Jaishankar.

Describing IORA as a collective platform to highlight common challenges, the Foreign Secretary said that IORA is an important instrument in promoting cooperation and ensuring stability in the region and that India supports the intensification and invigoration of IORA activities in areas like renewable energy, blue economy and maritime safety.

Also speaking on the occasion, IORA Secretary General, Ambassador KV Bhagirath in his opening remarks described the Indian Ocean as the ‘next big thing in the strategic theatre’  that holds the key to geopolitical fault lines.
Insisting that India's role in the IOR will define the collaborative architecture of the region, he stated that while there are several challenges within the region, there are also several opportunities that can be capitalised upon.
In his welcome remarks, Deputy Director General, IDSA, Maj Gen Alok Deb (Retd) said that the economic importance of the Indian Ocean Region is reflected in the growing stature of the IORA and the sheer scale of its activities. Therefore, the security dimensions of the region have been enhanced manifold with marked increase in naval activities in the region.  
150 participants, including 50 experts from IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners are attending the two-day event, which offers an opportunity for them to discuss existing Maritime Safety and Security issues in the Indian Ocean Region  and to deliberate upon the application of best practices to successfully manage these challenges.