NEW DELHI:¬†Mauritius¬†and¬†Seychelles¬†will soon join the¬†Indian Ocean trilateral group¬†on maritime security. After the third meeting of the trilateral -which includes India, Sri Lanka and Maldives – NSA Shivshankar Menon said the informal grouping now has a system to monitor activities in the Indian Ocean, conduct search and rescue operations and counter piracy among other things.¬†
The grouping is an avenue to enhance India’s power in the region at a time when China is stepping up its naval activities. “We have a platform in place which will enhance concrete response to situations whether it is piracy, counter terrorism, drug trafficking or human trafficking… We will pool our capability. This is useful and wanted to join forward,” Menon said.
“We can put in place systems so that we can share and see what is going on in the maritime area around us. We have trained our people. We have put in hardware so that we can share information,” he said.
The Maldivian delegation was led by its defence minister Col (Retd) Mohamed Nazim while the Sri Lankan side was represented by its defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Mauritius and Seychelles were invited as observers this time, but will formally join soon after which, Menon said, the grouping would have to get another name.
The trilateral was an informal arrangement, but now that it’s growing, there is the question whether it will clash with the work being done by the¬†Indian Ocean Regional Association¬†(IORA) or IONS. The trilateral, Menon said, had developed an Automatic Identification System, built by India for enhancing coastal security, and this was shared by the other members of this group.
Asked whether Sri Lanka raised the issue of a proposal being moved by Mauritius against it in the UN Human Rights Commission, Menon said, “They mentioned that for this kind of cooperation, we need trust and they were concerned that Mauritius is co-sponsoring a resolution in UNHRC.”
Menon added that piracy, which used to be a huge challenge a few years ago, was no longer such a threat, but it could flare up any time. After Somalia, India has the highest number of Somali pirates in its custody. Menon said the trilateral grouping would take up cooperation in hydrography. India is one of the world’s leading countries in hydrography capabilities.