Bengaluru: (Aero India 2021 update) "Being the largest nation in the IOR region with a vast coast line of 7500 Kms, India has an active role to play for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all countries. 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" said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defence Ministers' conclave held on Thursday on the sidelines of Aero India 2021. Singh signalled that on the basis of 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, IOR countries must focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism and inter cultural exchanges.
The Minister said IOR faces a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs/people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search & Rescue (SAR) which can be met through maritime co-operation.
Referring to India's growing Aerospace & Defence sector and its emergence as a global R&D hub the minister said IOR countries can leverage these sectors for mutual benefit. He said the recent order from the Indian Air Force to buy 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk-1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a milestone in India's indigenization of defence manufacturing capabilities. Singh added that India is ready to supply various types of weapons systems to IOR countries. Rajnath Singh said that in consonance with the Prime Minister Narendra 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 Indian made ships, maritime aircraft and setting-up of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems, he said.
Signalling towards troubled water in south China sea Singh said that the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world highlighted the need to ensure peace in the IOR region. He added that IOR countries have demonstrated mutual respect for a rules-based order and commitment to abide by international law. Raksha Mantri spoke of the various policy initiatives of the government to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea link Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and Asia Africa Growth Corridor etc. He emphasized the need to take economic, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration further in the region. He said that the linked futures of IOR countries depend on how they tackle emerging challenges and leverage opportunities.
Rajnath Singh 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'. He added that Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO), and Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations are important and highlighted India's swift response during the cyclones in Mozambique and Madagascar and reaching out to countries through medical teams, medicines such as hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies through Operation-Sagar-I during COVID times. He further said that Op-SAGAR-II saw over 300 metric tons of humanitarian aid being delivered to 4 nations in the IOR.
The Defence Minister said vaccine supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles have already highlighted India's commitment to protect humanity from COVID-19. He said that India was conducting training programmes for immunization managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries before delivery of the vaccines. He highlighted development of effective response mechanism to humanitarian crisis and natural disasters in the IOR region as one of the most visible element of India's Indian Ocean strategy.
75 percent of global trade and 50 percent of daily global transfers already pass through the Indian Ocean region- Rajnath Singh
Twenty six out of twenty eight countries from the IOR region attended the conclave either physically or in virtual mode. In his closing remarks, Singh said the enthusiastic participation was a symbol of the collective desire of the nations of the IOR region to work together. He applauded the dynamism, ideas and conviction for a brighter future displayed at the conclave. Highlighting the global geopolitical and commercial significance of the Indian ocean, he said 75 percent of global trade and 50 percent of daily global transfers already pass through the region.
He further said the deployment of ships by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast guard for maritime security and anti-piracy operations had been successful in minimising threats to commercial shipping.
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