Maritime Security Key Dimension Of Bilateral Ties: Swaraj

Describing maritime security as a key dimension of its bilateral ties with Indian Ocean rim countries, India said it values its trilateral maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives and was trying to expand it to include others.

"Maritime security is an important dimension of India's bilateral relations with Indian Ocean Littoral states and through various formal and informal structures currently in place," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stated Friday.

Swaraj was speaking after inaugurating an International Conference on “India and Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilisational linkages.”

“We value our trilateral maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives. We are exploring possibilities of expanding it to include others in the Indian Ocean Region in particular Seychelles and Mauritius,” she said.

The External Affair Minister said Indian Navy has been playing an important role in this through increased bilateral /multilateral maritime exercises including MILAN which saw participation from 17 regional navies off the Andaman Coast in February 2014.

India looks forward to building closer cooperation in maritime domain, regularise bilateral maritime exercises and strengthen dialogues between the navies and Coast Guards with all littoral countries in the Indian Ocean Region, Swaraj said.

India is part of various multilateral institutions, which are actively debating maritime security issues in the Asia Pacific region, she said, adding that Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which India founded in 2008, has 35 countries participating in its various activities.

"The effort has gathered momentum and deepened mutual understanding on maritime challenges and has strengthened our collective ability to address them," Swaraj added.

As a founder member of the Contact Group on Piracy, India has been sensitive to the maritime security situation in the Gulf of Aden for shipping lanes in this part of the Indian Ocean, Swaraj said adding India has been working with like-minded countries to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of maritime domain which is a global commons.

"We are committed to maritime security, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law," she said.

The Minister, however, lamented that full potential of intra-regional trade remains untapped because of poor communication and transport links, lack of information about the supply capabilities, among other barriers.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi also expressed the need for the improvement of intra-region links when he was in Sri Lanka recently.
(With inputs from The New Indian Express)

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