Underlining the growing geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean, India Friday pitched for enhanced cooperation among 19 countries along its rim in the area of maritime security and trade and investment.
Inaugurating the ministerial meeting of the 19-member Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid underscored the geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean.
“As focus of global economic growth shifts to Asia, it will occupy even greater salience in our strategic perspective,” Khurshid said at the Hotel Oberoi Trident in Gurgaon, often referred to as the millennium city, bordering the Indian capital.
“We envision IOR-ARC as a regional body that can respond effectively to this need and enhance our individual and collective capacities to deal with contemporary challenges facing our common maritime domain,” he said while calling for reinvigorating the Indian Ocean body.
Khurshid stressed on promoting sustained growth and balanced development of the region as a strategy to ensure maritime security. “Economic development cooperation requires a conducive environment to flower. Security of maritime commerce and safety of seafarers are of concern to all of us,” he said.
“There is a need, for example, to be more precise in defining High Risk Areas in the Indian Ocean, based on actual incidents of piracy, as this impacts adversely on insurance premiums and adds to the cost of shipping in our region,” he said.
Khurshid announced that India would host an IOR-ARC seminar on maritime security in early 2013 and stressed that it could be institutionalised as a regional forum for discussing security-related issues.
He called for galvanising the 19-member Indian Ocean body to deal with common challenges collectively. “We should consider ways and means of providing greater structure to the IOR-ARC process, and enhancing the capacity of the secretariat to support this effort,” he said.