Maritime Security Trilateralism: India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives

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  • May 2014

    India has stepped up its efforts to cooperate on security issues in general and on maritime security in particular with its island neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). At the core of this lies the initiative to build a trilateral maritime arrangement with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It is in this larger context that the second National Security Advisors’ (NSAs) meeting took place in Colombo in July 2013. On the one hand the agenda was to create a closer functional operative on maritime security and to assist in capacity build-up; at the unstated level it also sought to partially allay concerns about the growing strategic influence of the Chinese and Pakistanis on these islands.

    Security agendas have now become more comprehensive and holistic and this perception has, to an extent, permeated to the Indian bureaucracy. Complementary to this, there exists a notion of cooperative security that is based largely on regional systems and lays emphasis on cooperative approaches and the usage of modern technology. This is significant in the vast oceanic spaces that are relatively unpoliced, giving rise to serious maritime challenges in the IOR. However, this approach calls for reorganisation and prioritisation of national objectives and harmonisation of policies across territorial boundaries. Cooperation among regional organisations is therefore a force multiplier and is often most desirable. With India playing the role of security provider for the entire region, cooperative approaches assume salience. Hence, the effort to bring friendly countries within its maritime security framework has been the impetus for the trilateral meeting.