Security challenges do not respect borders and need to be tackled through effective partnerships at the regional level, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said in a veiled reference to Pakistan, PTI reported on Wednesday.
The country’s top diplomat said nurturing a climate of peace in the Indian Ocean region is the “cornerstone” of India’s foreign policy, and it is working with like-minded countries to preserve the inviolability and security of maritme domain.
Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the second Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) meeting of experts for maritime safety and security on Tuesday, Jaishankar noted that India conducts 40 per cent of its trade with littoral states along the IOR and it supports “freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce”.
He also advocated resolution of maritime disputes through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an oblique reference to the South China Sea where China is flexing its military muscle despite an international tribunal verdict going against it.
Jaishankar said the countries along the IOR have a “greater responsibility” to collaborate and work together to tackle the maritime security challenges that range from terrorism and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to territorial and maritime disputes.
“Security challenges do not respect borders and need to be tackled through effective partnerships at the regional level. India has been working with like-minded countries to preserve the integrity, inviolability and security of maritime domain, much of which is a global commons,” he said.
The remark is seen as a veiled reference to Pakistan. In November 2008, Mumbai witnessed a terror attack from Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who used the Arabian Sea to enter India. He added that maritime cooperation is one of the “key pillars” of India’s cooperation in Asia and Africa and listed out initiatives New Delhi has undertaken to help its coastal neighbours.
The foreign secretary also informed that India has signed the White Shipping Agreements with a number of countries and provided capacity building assistance by imparting training. “In addition, our ships have undertaken coordinated patrolling with other countries and EEZ Surveillance on the request of our partners. India’s sense of responsibility will grow with its capabilities and the IOR should be assured that it can count on us,” he said.
In the past, India has provided ships and patrol vessels to countries like Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Mauritius, which are strategically located in the Indian Ocean.