India, Srilanka and Maldives to collaborate on Security of Indian Ocean region.

by mehekkaoberoi

Bасkgrоund:-

  • Recently in a Deputy National Security Adviser-level meeting hosted by Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives have agreed to work on “four pillars” of security cooperation.
  • The four areas covers marine security, human trafficking, counter-terrorism, and cyber security.
  • After the NSA (National Security Adviser) Trilateral Meeting The framework was renamed as ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ on Maritime Security in November 2020. A secretariat has also been formed in Sri Lanka’s capital city (Colombo)
  • This was a Trilateral Security Framework was established in the year 2011.
  • The Conclave was established with the goal of forging better cooperation between the three Indian Ocean countries on maritime and security issues.
  • The effort, which is based on military and security cooperation, is significant in the area, given India’s existing geostrategic relationship with Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Linkаges:- 

  • India has been expressing security concerns earlier this year after China was awarded construction projects on an island off the coast of Sri Lanka’s northern region, nearer to India’s southern border.
  • During the last year, the Maldives’ interaction with members of the India-United States-Japan-Australia grouping, known as the ‘Quad,’ has grown, particularly in defence cooperation which was welcomed by India.
  • The Indian Ocean has emerged as a critical conduit for trade, commerce, and energy. The waters of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) have become a home for economic developments, disputes, conflicts, and competition for regional influence by regional and extra regional powers. All major powers, such as the United States, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, India, and China have sought stakes in the security of the IOR. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union wanted direct access to the IOR; now, China is looking for the same. The India Ocean remains a pivot, being the world’s busiest trade route.
  • Around 80 percent of the world’s maritime oil trade passes through the IOR. The rise of China across the maritime region has compelled nations (including India) to reshape their maritime strategies. This commentary aims at looking at the geostrategic importance of the IOR for India, China’s presence in the region, and counterbalance strategies.
  • The Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean remains a major concern across the region. Beijing is eager to have strong footholds in the IOR, Africa, and other island nations, through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and other Chinese commercial vessels in the Indian Ocean, the Chinese interpretation of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, and so forth remain challenges to those who subscribe to the ideal of a free and open Indo-Pacific. 
  • The geopolitical theory of the “String of Pearls” explains China’s potentials and intentions of establishing commercial and infrastructural projects in India’s backyard. China has invested in several projects from the Horn of Africa to the ASEAN nations and the Pacific Island nations.
  • The revival of the Chinese Maritime Silk Route can be seen through China’s investment in the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, which Beijing gained control of through debt-trap lending, and the development of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port as a part of China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In the Maldives, China had financed the China–Maldives Friendship Bridge, linking Malé to the island of Hulhumale and Hulhule.
  • With China obstructing India on land, disputing New Delhi’s claim of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, Beijing’s predominant geopolitical strategy of the great game lies in the Indian Ocean, where China has engaged in massive infrastructure projects for some time now. To counter the rise of China, India needs to up its game in the maritime sphere. New Delhi has been increasing India’s military investments since the Modi government first came to power in 2014.
  • The convention’s goal is to create a maritime security framework for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which includes the Bay of Bengal, in the light of China’s expanding influence in the region.

Сurrent  Sсenаriо:-

  • The meeting marked the revival of NSA-level trilateral talks on maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region after a gap of six years.
  • Sri Lanka convened a Deputy National Security Adviser-level meeting online.
  • With the six countries attending the meeting, the focus areas were expanded and now it covers weapons and human trafficking, countering terrorism and violent extremism, protection of maritime environment, capacity building, transnational crimes including narcotics, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), etc.
  • With the widening of thematic areas of cooperation and expansion of membership to Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles indicate growing convergence among the Indian Ocean Region countries to work together in a common platform and to deepen the spheres of engagement under a regional framework.
  • It also highlights India’s desire to play a leading security role in the neighbourhood.
  • The meeting which was held under the Colombo Security Conclave, saw Bangladesh, Seychelles and Mauritius participating in the role of observers.

Imрасt:-

  • The formation of a single marine and security platform by the six Indian Ocean region countries in India’s immediate neighborhood which is crucial in a broader global perspective.
  • India’s neighborhood strategy has emphasized a sub-regional approach to fostering security cooperation. This policy approach by the NSA-level trilateral India-Sri Lanka-Maldives makes it possible.
  • Drawing a clear boundary in the sub region will continue to remain a challenge as cooperation will not always be driven by the proximity factor but also by the nature of the issue itself. But some clarity on the boundary issue may help in better framing the objectives of sub regional security cooperation and avoid overlapping of membership or duplication of activities.
  • If India is able to hold its position in the Indian waters it is quite empirical that India can have a control of about 80% of the maritime oil which is transported thru the route. Maintaining a strong hold on the route is not just a key parameter but also acts vital in the growth and economic development of India.
  • It is also just not about trade which takes place between countries but also about the security for the country IOR is a crucial zone as India is surrounded 3 sides by sea and any infiltrations in sea could be a security threat to India’s integrity. Hence to reinforce maritime safety and security in the IOR, collaborations through joint exercises between fleets and coast guards will be organized from time to time.

content contributed by-MEGHNA MANOJ

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