Bengaluru, Feb 4 : India is ready to supply various types of weapon systems to Indian Ocean Region countries, Defence Minster Rajnath Singh said on Thursday, while stressing that the countries need to ensure peace in the region through “maritime cooperation”.
In a reference to to the prevailing tension in the South China Sea because of China’s expansionist strategy, he said that the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas highlighted the need to ensure peace in the IOR region.
However, the Defence Minister didn’t name China while referring to the current situation in the South China Sea during his address at the Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave here.
A total of 27 out of the 28 Indian Ocean countries participated in the conclave and shared their views on enhancing regional cooperation.
Rajnath Singh underlined that the Indian Ocean is a shared asset and a lifeline to international trade and transport due to its control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments.
He said SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region – is the theme of Indian Ocean Policy as outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, adding that in line with this, the IOR conclave should focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism and inter-cultural exchanges.
The Minister identified areas such as deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral, enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, working towards sustainable regional development, the Blue Economy, including sustainable and regulated fishing, and promoting collective action to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy, terrorism, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as inter-related elements of SAGAR.
He said that the IOR faces a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs and people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search and Rescue (SAR) which can be met through maritime cooperation.
The Minister identified maritime resources as the key to sustained growth and development of IOR nations in the 21st century.
Noting that IOR countries have demonstrated mutual respect for a rules-based order and commitment to abide by international law, he also spoke of the various policy initiatives of the Indian government to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea link Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and the Asia Africa Growth Corridor.
He also emphasised the need to take economic, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration further in the region, adding that the linked futures of IOR countries depend on how they tackle emerging challenges and leverage opportunities.
Referring to India’s growing aerospace and defence sector and its emergence as a global research and development hub with one of the world’s largest start up ecosystems, Rajnath Singh said IOR countries can leverage these sectors for mutual benefit. He said the recent order from the Indian Air Force to buy 83 Advanced Light Helicopters Mk-1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is a milestone in India’s indigenisation of defence manufacturing capabilities.
Noting India is ready to supply various types of weapons systems to IOR countries, he said that in consonance with Modi’s vision of SAGAR, Neighbourhood First and Act East Policies, India has adopted a cooperative approach through capacity building assistance in partner countries. This was reflected in India’s supply of ships, maritime aircraft and setting-up of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems, he said.
He also said India was developing a comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness picture in the IOR, which has resulted in signing of Technical Agreements for sharing of ‘White Shipping Information’.