26 nations on board Indian Navy’s maritime military bloc


New Delhi : Indicative of India’s growing clout on the global stage, the navy has floated a maritime military bloc comprising littoral states of the Indian Ocean and the response has been overwhelming with 26 countries already on board.

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For the moment, however, China and the US have been excluded from the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) since they are not littoral states, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said here Monday.

Thirty-one countries, in a broad swathe from South Africa to Australia had been invited and 26 have confirmed their participation for the IONS foundation meeting here Feb 14-18, timed to coincide with the biennial Defexpo international exposition, Mehta told reporters ahead of the Navy Week celebrations from Tuesday.

“Pakistan has also been invited and it is for them to confirm they will attend,” he said in response to a question, adding that the biennial IONS initiative had the “full backing” of India’s external affairs ministry.

IONS would be conducted in two parts, with the first two days devoted to a seminar that would consider an overview of the maritime scenario in the Indian Ocean Region, discuss contemporary maritime challenges and ways to ensure synergy through cooperative approaches.

The next three days would be devoted a closed-door conclave of navy chiefs of the participating countries aimed at establishing mechanisms to mitigate security concerns of the region and develop interoperability among its navies.

According to Mehta, “Many navies of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) look to India to promote regional maritime security. It is thus prudent that India launches an inclusive forum for discussing and taking forward issues of common interest.”

Elaborating, he said: “While Southeast and East Asian countries of the (US-backed) Western Pacific Naval Symposium are heavily engaged in the maritime domain, there is an engagement deficiency in the Indian Ocean, particularly in the western Indian Ocean.

“Consequently, external players are rapidly forging new maritime security relationships. The establishment of a regional naval grouping would promote greater mutual interaction and curtail growing dependency on extra regional players in the region.

“This apart, the symposium will enable Indian Ocean nations address their problems without external assistance,” Mehta added.