AIR spotlight summary on “First Indian Ocean Rim Association Summit”.
- The first summit of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. IORA, formerly known as Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) was started in 1997 in Mauritius. It has got 21 members. It is a very diverse group consisting of members from Africa to South East Asia.
- 2017 is the 20th year of formation of this group which is very important landmark. Till now the emphasis was more on economic integration and economic collaboration. Since the whole global scenario is changing the emphasis could shift more to security areas. The IORA needs momentum and the summit will provide that momentum.
Areas of Cooperation
- The six areas where the member countries have been focusing are maritime safety and security, trade and investment, management of fisheries (the total stock of fishes in the ocean has been declining because of too much exploitation), disaster management, Science and Technology and tourism.
- 80% of India’s energy imports happen through Indian Ocean, 40% of the world’s global trade traverse through Indian Ocean. Therefore security is paramount. As of now Indian Ocean Region is very peaceful and there is no rivalry. The trade, transit and sea lanes are clear. Whereas in different parts of the world the things are changing like in South China Sea because of China’s aggressiveness it has become the area of conflict and the Pacific Ocean which has always been the area of conflict.
Focus on Security Issues
- The IORA members must focus more on security issues in Indian Ocean Region and make sure that there is no entry of foreign Navy in a manner which can disturb the peace and tranquillity of the region; otherwise they will be opening the region for competition which will eventually harm all the countries.
- International cooperation for anti piracy has been one of the fine success stories. Earlier in Somalia and Gulf of Aden etc there was the issue of piracy which have now been contained. In 2008 there was Mumbai attack and terrorists from Pakistan came through maritime route. So how to secure the maritime sea routes is difficult task but doable if all the IORA countries cooperate.
- There has been an accord signed on the cooperation against terrorism. Sharing of information between members is very important. Pakistan is not the member of IORA but indirectly they influence the security in Indian Ocean region because of Arabian Sea and the Gwadar Port which should be watched closely by the member countries. It is also expected that more of Chinese presence will increase in Gwadar port.
China’s presence in Indian Ocean
- China is developing a Blue Water Navy, they have an Aircraft carrier, and they have their presence in Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. The members of IORA want the peaceful rise of China. China should not become assertive and aggressive and hinder the security aspects of the region.
- China’s Maritime Silk route project is the project through which china wants to dominate the sea route and trade route. During the colonial times when the colonial powers stared coming to India via sea route it is the colonial powers that benefitted because they had the technology, shipping and they controlled the market. In Sri Lanka for Hambantota port China gave $1billion as loan but there was no revenue generated, so Sri Lankan government has given the port to china on lease. So it could be a new way of colonisation. It could be Chinese way of colonising small countries by first investing and when those countries are unable to pay back, then trying to get control over that port and inland facilities.
- It is important that the countries who have embraced maritime silk route must understand what is likely to happen. We cannot expect that countries like Maldives and Sri Lanka will be exporting anything to China, it will only be Chinese goods and using these ports to connect to Europe and Africa. China does not adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- India has been accepted as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region and in many ways we try to project and enforce that role. Indonesia has many difficulties with China on issues like Nine Dash Line.
- It requires a collective effort, more coordination among the member countries and if there are any security concerns in Indian Ocean region it should be addressed. At present there are no security issues in Indian Ocean region, all the countries are working in harmony and if there are any foreign country presence in Indian Ocean the question should asked about the purpose and their intention behind it.
- All countries must work together, come up with certain rules and regulations or code of conduct so that it becomes difficult for any other outside power to violate those rules. IORA provides confidence to small countries like Mauritius and Angola and other places where India is dependent on oil imports.