India is deeply committed to strengthening the East Asia Summit as an ASEAN-led organisation and continues to contribute positively to the EAS goals, including maritime security cooperation, Secretary East in the MEA Riva Ganguly Das said on Tuesday.
Addressing the 5th EAS Conference on Maritime Security Cooperation in Kolkata, the Secretary East said that India envisages a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the region, peaceful resolution of disputes, avoidance of use or threat of use of force, and adherence to international laws, rules and regulations.
She said the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2019, is based on this vision of the Indo-Pacific and is an open and nontreaty based initiative that does not envisage creating any new institutional framework.
The IPOI has seven pillars for cooperation and collaboration namely Maritime Security, Maritime Ecology, Maritime Resources, Capacity Building and Resource Sharing, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation and Trade, Connectivity and Maritime Transport with an aim to fulfil the overarching and converging interests in the Indo-Pacific.
“We are happy to have valuable platform of EAS to take forward the objectives envisaged in IPOI and discuss the issues of common interests and address the common challenges in domain of Maritime Security together,” she said, adding that the conference aims for practical and result-oriented cooperation among the EAS participating countries within existing architecture and initiatives, while also exploring new ideas of maritime cooperation.
The second was held in Goa in 2017, the third in Bhubaneswar in 2018, and the fourth in Chennai last year.The fifth event is held in co-operation with Australia which is also expanding its strategic expansion in the Indo-Pacific region.
She said that at the 4th EAS Maritime Security Conference held last year in Chennai, India proposed to prepare a draft handbook on HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) cooperation and a Search and Rescue (SAR) Operation SOP for circulation among the EAS participating countries and the AHA Centre (ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, Jakarta) for their views and comments.
The draft guidelines for HADR cooperation and SoPs for Search and Rescue (SAR) for Indo-Pacific Region, are in the final stages of preparation and will be circulated to EAS countries for comments shortly, she added. The recently held 16th EAS Summit also touched upon these issues, including the impact of the current pandemic on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific.
In August 2021, India, under its presidency of United Nations Security Council hosted a High-level Open Debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security – A Case for International Cooperation’ which was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Secretary East pointed out that with the centre of gravity of global growth shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region, the focus of related maritime challenges like piracy, smuggling and trafficking, IUU fishing (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing), misuse of marine resources, an increase of marine pollutant particularly plastics, is also shifting there.
“We are also working with the EAS countries to enhance discussion and deliberations on specific areas of common interest in the maritime domain in the region. India, Australia and Singapore will be jointly organising EAS Workshop on “Marine Pollution especially Marine Plastic Debris” and India and Singapore are jointly organising EAS Workshop on “IUU Fishing”, both in early 2022,” she added.