Colombo, August 18 (newsin.asia): In the first meeting of Indian Ocean Region Association (IORA) Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) Working Group chaired by Sri Lanka and held in Colombo on August 8 and 9, Sri Lanka reiterated its interest in setting up a Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre to complement similar centers in Madagascar and Singapore.
Further, Sri Lanka also offered to undertake to support member states in capacity building related to anti-piracy and SAR activities as well as engaging in research connected to specific MSS challenges, a Lankan Foreign Ministry release said.
With the participation of 22 foreign delegates representing IORA member countries and representatives of the IORA Secretariat the working group finalized the work plan for action.
Inaugurating the meeting Foreign Secretary RavinathaAryasinharecalling Sri Lanka’s role in spearheading the Indian Ocean Peace Zone proposal in 1971, said at the time few recognized the importance of the concept. He said it was pleasing to note that times have changed. The Indian Ocean has today been acknowledged as one of the world’s busiest and most critical trade corridors, carrying two-thirds of global oil shipments and a third of bulk cargo and hosting the most critical Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), directly impacting global trade and economy.
Sri Lanka as a country central to this region, while protecting its self-interest, is keen to ensure freedom of navigation and lines of communication, which were an essential prerequisite not only to maintaining regional security and stability, but is also crucial for the future prosperity of the region.
He said “The Indian Ocean: Defining Our Future” multilateral diplomatic engagement hosted by Sri Lanka last year which brought together not only the Indian Ocean littoral states, but also its maritime users, was an expression of this commitment.
The meeting chaired by Director General of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, was an intense exercise to agree on a Work Plan on consensus basis of a 50-page document.
The Work Plan for an initial period of two years, was based on three over-arching objectives; 1. building the foundation for a collaborative IORA MSS Framework, 2. establishing an integrated policy approach on MSS, and 3. establishing a Coordinated Regional Vision for MSS in IORA to address existing and emerging issues.
Sri Lanka, as the Coordinating Country would take the lead in assessing progress of the implementation of the MSS Blue Print and the activities agreed upon under the Work Plan on MSS.
In the context of traditional and non-traditional threats connected to maritime safety and security and emerging new maritime architectures, particularly related to the Indian Ocean, a Panel Discussion moderated by Executive Director, Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies, Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, on “Emerging Scenarios Safety and Security in the Indian Ocean” was held.
Panelists included former Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and former Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Rohan Perera, Deputy Chief of Staff and Director General Operations, Sri Lanka Navy, Rear Admiral N. P. S. Attygalle, and Head of Global Maritime Crime Programme, United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes, Mr. Alan Cole.
The event provided a forum for member states to discuss collective priorities in the spheres of maritime safety and security. It further gave an opportunity to build the foundation for a collaborative and integrated IORA Maritime Safety and Security framework based on the needs and priorities of member states.