The 2018 joint strategic vision for India-France cooperation in the Indian Ocean region specifically mentions that France would support India’s entry in the IOC as an observer. In return, India had supported a “greater role” for France in the bigger Indian Ocean Rim Association.
As per that, India has become a member of the Indian Ocean Commission,
Indian Ocean Commission
- The inter-governmental organization that coordinates maritime governance in the south-western Indian Ocean created by the Port-Louis Declaration in1982.
- The IOC was institutionalized in Seychelles in 1984 by the General Agreement for Cooperation, better known as the Victoria Agreement.
- The Indian Ocean Commission comprises
- Mauritius, and
- Reunion Island- France’s overseas territory in the region.
- The group has largely been dominated by France, as all the island states are predominately Francophone with a common colonial history.
- Till then, IOC had four observers – China, Malta, European Union and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).
- Political and diplomatic cooperation,
- Economic and commercial cooperation
- Sustainable development in a globalisation context, cooperation in the field of agriculture, maritime fishing, and the conservation of resources and ecosystems
- Strengthening of the regional cultural identity, cooperation in cultural, scientific, technical, educational and judicial fields.
Significance for India
- Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is a strategic part of the Indian Ocean linking the South eastern coast of Africa to the wider Indian Ocean and beyond. It is home to one of the key chokepoints in the Indian Ocean- the Mozambique Channel.
- These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy & greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.
- India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean. It institutionalises a larger engagement in the south-western Indian Ocean
- This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
- It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
- It is also recognition of India’s growing capability and intent as a first responder for crisis in this region. E.g. During floods in Madagascar in January, 2020 India sent the INS Airavat with relief supplies to the country.
- With China’s growing presence in the region, this will embolden India’s position to increase its naval presence and gain support for its maritime projects across the Indo-Pacific.