New Delhi: Maintaining that the Indian Ocean region will face an increasingly complicated, rapidly evolving and more demanding security situation, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday said countries in the region need a new cooperative architecture for their common maritime space to ensure both security and free trade.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic and new threats have highlighted the need to work together and come up with common solutions, and India stands ready to do its share in tackling new threats and challenges.
Among top naval officers of the eight countries around Indian Ocean, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Operations of Bangladesh Rear Admiral M Ashraful Haq attended the event. Chief of the Naval Staff of Indian Navy Admiral Karambir Singh and Defence Secretary of India Dr Ajay Kumar were present on the occasion The Indian foreign secretary said opportunities tend to have expiry dates. “We must, as fellow travellers in a voyage, work swiftly to ride these momentarily favourable tides and currents. If we are able to do so, we in the Indian Ocean region, through common effort, may be able to set ourselves on a trajectory to improved futures,” he said.
He said they cannot anticipate each and every problem that will arise. “We can, however, work on strengthening the structures, the understandings, the procedures, and the resources, that are deployed. This will enable us to better manage known problems. It will also enable us to create a surge capacity to deal with the unknown.”
In this context, Shringla said India stands ready and is willing to do its share – and more – in tackling these problems.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a rebalancing that has resulted in a dispersal of capacities, including for Indian Ocean nations, he said. “Everyone of us present here have a growing ability to come up with common solutions to common problems. That means we are able to do more together,” he added.
Referring to the changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian foreign secretary said countries were in the process of devising new solutions. “We are in the process of devising a new set of measures and arrangements that reflect this understanding of security. They are based less on the traditional concept of a military alliance and more on a cooperative approach, on prevention, on sharing of information, and, on promoting inter-operability across state borders,” he said.
In this context, Shringla offered help in upgrading maritime hardware and software. “We have supplied equipment, vessels and aircraft to Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mozambique, the Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Comoros and Myanmar.”
Detailing the nature of maritime architecture, he proposed improving the security situation in the Indian Ocean region from 'some threats' as domain awareness is central to any preventive security strategy.
In this regard, the Indian foreign secretary mentioned a memorandum of understanding recently signed between India and Bangladesh on coastal radar surveillance. India has done similar agreements with other countries like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, the Maldives and the Seychelles.
He also proposed working with all partners on improving EEZ surveillance as anti-piracy patrols with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia have improved the security and understanding.