UAE will be next chairman of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium

By Ritu Sharma,IANS,

New Delhi : The United Arab Emirates will be the next chairman of the Indian Navy’s initiative – Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) – validating its existence as a pan-Asian security forum and rubbishing Pakistan’s argument terming it as a grouping against the Islamic world.

Support TwoCircles

“The UAE will take over the chairmanship of IONS in March 2010,” a senior naval official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The development is significant as it would take the fizz out of Pakistan’s opposition to the maritime grouping.

According to the official, the Indian Navy’s main thrust is to bring Pakistan “completely on board”. When the chiefs-of-navy of 26 littoral states got together in February 2008 for the first meeting of IONS here, Pakistan was represented by its naval attache.

When the proposal for the forum was put up, Pakistan tried to scuttle it by playing the religious card and terming it as antagonistic to the interests of the Islamic world. But the Indian Navy tackled it by getting UAE and Indonesia into the ambit of IONS.

With Pakistan fully on board, Indian Navy is likely to rotate the chairmanship of the grouping to Islamabad by 2016. If Pakistan backs out, the chairmanship would go to Sri Lanka.

The next year would be important to gauge the effectiveness and success of the Indian Navy’s initiative. During the meeting in the UAE the 33 littoral countries that are members of the grouping will also consider the formal requests by the US and Britain’s Navy as observer.

“Yes, the US and Britain have sent formal requests to be part of the IONS. The proposal will be considered at the next meeting next year,” the official added.

The request from the major maritime powers has come over an year after the Indian Navy, seeking constructive engagement as primary means of achieving and assuring mutual beneficial maritime security, stability, safety and consequent collective prosperity, set up IONS.

The US and Britain navies have expressed their desire to be part of IONS as the countries have bases in the Indian Ocean region.

Their request follows that of the Chinese Navy, which had approached its Indian counterparts to induct them into IONS either as an observer or associate member. However, the India is not enthusiastic about China’s request as it is seen as part of Beijing’s grand design to gain access to the Indian Ocean Region.

The IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium) provides a forum for discussion of issues, both regional and global. The Indian Navy wants to generate a flow of information and opinion between naval professionals.

The IONS came into existence as a consequence of the deliberations made by the commanders of the navies around the Indian Ocean who gathered in India in February 2008 at the invitation of Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.