India asks Indian Ocean littoral states to forge close ties to combat terror


New Delhi : India Thursday called upon the Navies of the Indian Ocean littoral states to cement their ties to fight terror and sea-borne crimes.

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“We need greater connectivity among us not just in trade and commerce but in the realm of ideas, people and cultures,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which began here today.

Navies of 29 countries from South Africa to Australia are participating in the IONS.

“Recent years have seen a rise in crimes like terrorism, smuggling of narcotics, arms and weapons, piracy and robbery. These activities not only pose a threat to our growing naval commerce but also affect innocent fishermen and tourists,” Dr Manmohan Singh said.

“The need for cooperation among navies of the region in preventing such global crimes is therefore of paramount importance,” he stressed.

“The region has a rich heritage and share close socio-cultural ties. Above all, they are linked by a history of sea faring. A significant share of international trade passes through the sea-lanes of the region,” the Indian PM said, adding, “The Indian Ocean also accounts for 70 percent of the world’s natural disasters”.

“Our coastal ecosystems sustain livelihoods. They are host to a diverse species of marine life. We must have robust capabilities to deal with environmental emergencies,” he said, adding, “We must address the issues relating to navigation, conservation and management of these resources and for the conservation and management of the biodiversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction”.

“India remains committed to an Indian Ocean region that is stable and peaceful. We would like to cooperate with all like-minded countries to ensure the freedom of the seas for all nations and to deepen trade and economic linkages between the Indian Ocean Rim countries,” Dr Manmohan Singh said.

Addressing the IONS, Indias Defence Minster A K Antony said: “The maritime domain is demanding and deserving of continuous study, discussion and debate… The fact that the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region too realise this and understand its implications is clearly evident from your presence here at the launch of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium”.

“We have come together to share and explore the contours of a grand vision of a coalesced, prosperous and progressive Indian Ocean. This is a vision that is neither diminished nor daunted by our diversity,” Antony said.

IONS organiser and Indian Naval chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, said: “IONS should be seen as a construct in our region that focuses on issues related to, or which can be influenced through, the maritime environment. In doing so, it would perhaps help in creating conditions for regional cooperative efforts to spill over to other fields as well”.

IONS is being divided into two parts — with the first two days (Feb 14-15) devoted to a seminar here and on Feb 16 the delegates will visit the Indian coastal of Goa to participate in a closed-door conclave.