External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. ANI
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that it is important to maintain the Indian Ocean as a free, open and inclusive space as India assumed the Vice-Chair role of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for the term 2023-25.
In his opening remarks at the 23rd IORA Council of Ministers meet, Jaishankar said, “India’s priorities are clear – it is our effort to develop an Indian Ocean community that is stable and prosperous, strong and resilient and which is able to cooperate closely within and respond to happenings beyond the ocean. It is important to maintain the Indian Ocean as a free, open and inclusive space.”
China has been flexing its muscles in the strategically vital region and is also engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea (SCS) and the East China Sea (ECS).
Jaishankar said that developmental issues, lack of robust connectivity, the burden of opaque and unsustainable debt generated by unviable projects, threats to social fabric posed by extremism and fundamentalism, dangers emanating from terrorism, natural disasters and climate change, all these are the challenges that we face.
“As the Vice-Chair for the next two years, India, the “vishwa mitra or the world’s friend, a voice of the Global South, will work with IORA Member States to strengthen the institutional, financial and legal framework of IORA, towards realising the true potential of this dynamic grouping,” he said.
He said India’s specific focus will be in the areas of Maritime Safety & Security and Blue Economy as a coordinating country. India will also contribute to other priority and cross-cutting areas of IORA, as and when required, he added.
Jaishankar is among the 16 ministers attending the meeting which will also include the foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Iran, Mauritius, Malaysia and South Africa.
Jaishankar last visited Colombo in January during which he held talks with Lanka’s top leadership and discussed the entire gamut of close bilateral partnership and steps to strengthen it in all spheres.
With inputs from agencies