26 nations plan Indian Ocean maritime military bloc
Jan 23, 2008
India is helping initiate a maritime military bloc comprising littoral states of the Indian Ocean and so far between 26 and 29 nations have come on board, reports the Indian Navy.
In a statement the Indian Navy said that as part of its contribution towards consolidating the growing recognition of the importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Indian Navy has taken the initiative of setting-up an inclusive and consultative regional forum, to be known formally as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), where the ‘Heads/Chiefs of Navy’ of all littoral States of the IOR can periodically and regularly meet to discuss issues that bear upon regional maritime security.
Among the countries taking part are South Africa, Australia and France who will participate in the initial symposium between 14 and 18 February 2008. France has confirmed its participation on the basis of being a littoral state with its province of Reunion island in mid Indian Ocean but other major nations such as the UK, the US and China will not be attending, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said yesterday.
He said that Pakistan was invited but has so far not indicated whether it will attend.
The symposium will consist of two parts. The first two days will be a seminar held in New Delhi in which an overview of the Indian Ocean maritime scenario with emphasis on maritime challenges and looking at ways to ensure synergies between the various participants will be considered.
The balance of the symposium will involve a 3-day closed-door gathering in Goa of navy chiefs from all participating countries with the aim of establishing security mechanisms and co-operation between the respective navies.
“Many navies of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) look to India to promote regional maritime security. It is thus prudent that India launches an inclusive forum for discussing and taking forward issues of common interest,” said Mehta.
He added that while Southeast and East Asian countries of the (US-backed) Western Pacific Naval Symposium are heavily engaged in the maritime domain, there is an engagement deficiency in the Indian Ocean, particularly in the western Indian Ocean.
“Consequently, external players are rapidly forging new maritime security relationships. The establishment of a regional naval grouping would promote greater mutual interaction and curtail growing dependency on extra regional players in the region. This apart, the symposium will enable Indian Ocean nations address their problems without external assistance.”
The establishment of IONS consisting of Indian Ocean littoral states only is regarded in some quarters as a counter to efforts by the US and China to gain a permanent military foothold in the area. There are also concerns about increased maritime traffic passing through the Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits and the need to provide security for this shipping particularly from poaching and terrorist activity.
In an unrelated event, ships of the Indian and South African Navies, together with naval vessels from Brazil are due to take part in exercises off the South African coast shortly. The exercises are seen as a reflection of the growing trade and cultural ties between the three nations, known collectively as IBSA. The exercises will follow the annual ATLASUR naval exercises involving the navies of South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay also off the South African coast.
See related article IBSA plans joint naval exerciseCLICK HERE
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