New Delhi, Oct 22: With piracy becoming a growing trans-national security threat, ministers from 19 littoral countries of the Indian Ocean will gather here for an annual meeting later next month to map out new pathways of economic and security cooperation.
The 19-member Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) will hold its 12th ministerial meeting in Gurgaon Nov 2. It will be preceded by meetings of senior officials, academics and business persons.
Around 10 foreign ministers and seven deputy foreign ministers, among others, are expected to attend the ministerial meeting.
India, the current chair of the IOR-ARC, is in consultation with the strategically located member countries whose shores are washed by the Indian Ocean, to firm up the agenda for enhancing multi-faceted cooperation among the littoral states.
The Indian Ocean has acquired an added relevance in the global geopolitical calculus as around 60 percent of global maritime cargo, including energy supplies from the Middle East, passes through its arteries.
The growing incidents of piracy threaten commercial interests of not just littoral states, but countries like China and the US beyond the region, which depend on oil from the Middle East. Over 80 percent of India’s international trade passes through the Indian Ocean.
Against this backdrop, the ministerial meeting is expected to focus on new initiatives on enhancing anti-piracy cooperation. Maritime security is among six areas identified by the grouping as key issues, which also include fisheries management, disaster risk reduction, tourism and cultural exchanges, academic and science and technology cooperation and trade and investment facilitation.
Among other important issues on the agenda will be the US’ request to be considered a dialogue partner in the grouping. A decision on this issue will be taken by consensus among member states. Currently, the IOR-ARC has five dialogue partners – China, Japan, Egypt, France and Britain – and two observers.
The 19 members of the IOR-ARC include Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen.