Speed Post News Network

New Delhi : The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defence Ministers’ Conclave began with a keynote address from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on February 4, 2021, on the sidelines of Aero India 2021 in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Several Defence Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and senior officials from IOR countries attended the event physically or in virtual mode.

Outlining the agenda, Rajnath said that as the largest nation in the IOR region with a vast coast line of 7,500 km, India has an active role to play for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all countries. He stressed that the Indian Ocean is a shared asset and a lifeline to international trade and transport due to its control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic, and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, according to a PIB release.

Rajnath said SAGAR(- Security and Growth for All in the Region) is the theme of Indian Ocean Policy as outlined by Prime Minister  Narendra Modi in 2015. He added that in line with this, the IOR conclave should focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism, and inter cultural exchanges.

He identified areas such as deepening economic and security cooperation in the littorals, enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, working towards sustainable regional development, Blue Economy, including sustainable and regulated fishing, and promoting collective action to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy, terrorism, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing etc. as inter-related elements of SAGAR. Rajnath said IOR faces a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs/people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search & Rescue (SAR) which can be met through maritime co-operation.

Rajnath identified maritime resources as the key to sustained growth and development of IOR nations in the 21st century. He said that the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world highlighted the need to ensure peace in the IOR region. He added that IOR countries have demonstrated mutual respect for a rules-based order and commitment to abide by international law. He  spoke of the various policy initiatives of the government to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea link Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and Asia Africa Growth Corridor etc.

Rajnath emphasized the need to take economic, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration further in the region. He said that the linked futures of IOR countries depend on how they tackle emerging challenges and leverage opportunities.