The US is concerned about the Islamic State’s influence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, a top American commander has said and asked the countries in the area to ensure unencumbered and safe navigation in the region’s vital shipping lanes. Delivering the keynote speech at the two-day maritime conference at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo yesterday, Admiral Harry B Harris, Commander of US Pacific Command (USPACOM) said Sri Lanka could be a convening power to discuss freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean.
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Admiral Harris said the Asia-Pacific region more accurately captured the fact that the Indian and Pacific Oceans were the economic lifeblood linking the Indian Ocean Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Australia, Northeast Asia, Oceania and the United States together.
Harris said the partnerships of like-minded nations should be strengthened to uphold the rules-based global system to continue along a prosperous path.
“Oceans that once were physical and psychological barriers that kept us apart are now maritime superhighways that bring us together,” he noted.
And one area of cooperation is in maritime security. Sri Lanka and the United States, as well as India and Australia, rightfully take maritime security in the Indian Ocean seriously as a result of the significant challenges that exist in this region to threaten stability and prosperity -challenges like piracy, terrorism and illegal trafficking in all its bad forms.
“The ungoverned global common of the ocean has been exploited by various terrorist organisations. I’m particularly concerned about ISIL’s influence in this region. We must also be ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and ensure unencumbered and safe navigation in the region’s vital shipping lanes,” he said.
“Maritime security begins with overcoming what I call sea blindness by improving maritime domain awareness. To gain maritime domain awareness, you must have an accurate operating picture, coupled with an understanding of what you are seeing, coupled with a means to act upon what you’re seeing,” he added.