India calls for regional cooperation in Indian Ocean region

India calls for regional cooperation in Indian Ocean region

India calls for regional cooperation in Indian Ocean region

With China increasingly flexing its muscles in Indian Ocean, India on Tuesday called for regional cooperation to ensure safety and security of the vital sea trade routes.

"Regional cooperation within the Indian Ocean Region will become increasingly important in order to ensure the safety and security of vital trade routes, particularly the choke points," Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said.

He was speaking at the second Indian Ocean Regional Association meeting of the experts for maritime safety and security, which is held by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

"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," said Jaishankar.

He noted that the economic considerations and the security challenges in the Indian Ocean Region had together defined the naval and national strategies of nations within the region and beyond.

Jaishankar did not directly refer to China or its expansionist aspirations in the Indian Ocean region, but his comment apparently signaled India's keenness on working with other IORA nations to counter growing maritime muscle flexing by China.

The foreign secretary said that maritime safety and security was a multi-faceted issue, especially in the realm of non-traditional threats. He said that the maritime terrorism, smuggling, transnational crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration compounded by natural disasters, oil spills and the effects of climate change, were threats and challenges that impinged on the national interests of IORA nations.

"India itself conducts nearly 40% 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," added Jaishankar.