Q) The Indian Ocean Commission has emerged as an active and trusted regional actor, working in and for the Western Indian Ocean. What are the objectives of IOC? What is the significance for India as an observer state of the IOC? Discuss how IOC achievements offer an opportunity to learn for India. What is the contribution of India to IOC to strengthen maritime security in Western Indian Ocean?
The Indian Ocean Commission is an intergovernmental organization that constitute five African Indian Ocean nations (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles), who share geographic proximity, historical and demographic relationships, natural resources and common development issues.
The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is a strategic location of the Indian Ocean linking the Southeastern coast of Africa to the wider Indian Ocean and beyond.
Objectives of IOC:
- Its principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
- It aimed at protecting the region, improving the living conditions of the populations and preserving the various natural resources that the countries depend on.
- It strengthens Economic and commercial cooperation
- It aimed at sustainable development in a globalization context, cooperation in the field of agriculture, maritime fishing, and the conservation of resources and ecosystems
- It focused to strengthen the regional cultural identity, cooperation in cultural, scientific, technical, educational and judicial fields.
- Its mission also includes development, through projects related to sustainability for the region.
Significance for India
For India, the importance of joining this organization lies in several things
- India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
- It will help to extend India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) policy in the region.
- The move would lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.
- It will allow collective engagement with the island nations of western Indian Ocean (WIO) and further boost ties with them.
- These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
- This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
- The move also strengthens western flank of the Indo-Pacific and is a stepping stone to security cooperation with East Africa.
- The Potential of natural gas reserves in the Mozambique Channel increases the significance of the region for India.
- It helps in expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
India and IOC achievements:
- The IOC style of ‘bottom-up regionalism’ has produced a sub-regional view and definition of maritime security problems and local ownership of pathways towards workable solutions.
- Its regional maritime security architecture is viewed locally as the most effective and sustainable framework to improve maritime control and surveillance and allow littoral States to shape their own destiny.
- through RMIFC and RCOC the IOC is seeking sustainable ways to address maritime security threats in the region
- A 2019 policy brief published by the IOC ‘Strengthening Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean’, delivered unprecedented regional and international cooperation in the domain of maritime security.
- However, it resulted in multiple players, the duplication of actions, and regional dependence on international navies.
- Moreover, with proper regional coordination, local successes at curbing maritime threats will have broader security dividends for the Indian Ocean space.
India’s contribution to strengthen maritime security:
- The IOC’s maritime security activities have a strong foundation, but they require support and buy-in from additional regional actors.
- With its observer status, India will be called upon to-
- Extend its expertise to the region.
- Put its satellite imagery to the service of the RMIFC.
- Establish links with its own Information Fusion Centre.
- As a major stakeholder in the Indian Ocean India will continue to pursue its interests and tackle maritime security challenges at the macro level in the region.
- Nearly all littoral states in the Western Indian Ocean need assistance in developing their maritime domain awareness and in building capacity to patrol their EEZs.
India’s principles in SAGAR policy made clear that it has an opportunity to learn from and partner with IOC to reinforce maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean. India to calibrate its Indian Ocean strategy away from outdated, neo imperialist conceptions of great power that are costly to regional followership, one route will be to learn from and support sub-regional efforts such as those of the IOC.