NEW DELHI:¬†Maldives and Sri Lanka¬†are now the core of India’s maritime outreach into theIndian Ocean¬†‚Äî¬†an outcome that has been cemented after two years of hard work and coordination among the three countries.¬†
In a meeting in Colombo on Monday,¬†NSA Shivshankar Menon, Maldivian defence ministerMohammed Nazim¬†and¬†Sri Lankan defence secretary¬†Gotabaya Rajapaksa¬†laid down the framework of the trilateral grouping. Through the plethora of joint exercises and information-sharing decisions, it is also clear that notwithstanding¬†China’s¬†growing ingress into Lanka and Maldives, India has continued to play a primary role in their security outlook. By integrating them closer into its security matrix, India is trying to overcome the bilateral hiccups that sometimes bedevil these ties.
The three NSAs met for the second time in Colombo for the Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security and decided to expand the group to include other countries as well. India would be looking at some of its allies on¬†the eastern seaboard of Africa, or even Oman as the next tier of countries.
MEA officials¬†said the three countries signed an outcome document outlining further collaborative measures in the areas like¬†Maritime Domain Awareness¬†(MDA); strengthening coordination of maritime Search and Rescue (SAR); promoting marine oil pollution response cooperation; expanding ‘DOSTI’ (friendship) exercises; sharing of information on illegal maritime activities and piracy.
India, Maldives and Sri Lanka have also agreed to undertake joint surveillance of exclusive economic zones, which would have additional benefits from commerce to security as well as energy exploration.