Indian Ocean Rim grouping to jointly combat piracy menace (Lead)

November 15th, 2011 - 11:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Kevin Rudd Bangalore, Nov 15 (IANS) The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) Tuesday resolved to jointly combat the piracy menace by strengthening maritime security in the region.

“We have committed to cooperate fully through sharing of information and technical assistance to jointly combat this (piracy) menace,” the association said in a communique after a day-long meeting of its 11th council of ministers under the chairmanship of India.

Noting that the menace of piracy had assumed alarming proportions in recent years, the “Bangalore Declaration” said the growing level of piracy off the Horn of Africa posed a threat to international and regional navigation, maritime commerce and safety of sea-farers.

“In this regard, we support the international efforts at the United Nations, initiatives at the regional level and the contact group on piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which is coordinating anti-piracy efforts,” said the communique.

The meeting also agreed on the association serving as an effective vehicle for sharing information, experience and best practices to combat piracy on the high seas in the region in consistent with international laws.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who assumed vice-chair of the grouping, said around 185 ships were attacked by pirates during the last nine months on the high seas in the region.

“Of the 27 ships that were captured, 18 are still in the control of the pirates, which is increasing the cost of maritime security as the combined ransom has gone up to $5 million,” Rudd told reporters on the margins of the meeting.

As the maritime domain was at the crossroads of commerce and its busy energy routes pass through vulnerable points, the declaration stressed on the need to develop a holistic vision to cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

“We have identified sectors of common and contemporary interest, which should guide our association’s work as we deepen and give intra-regional cooperation greater relevance and value,” the communique said.

The meeting also underscored the importance of deepening cooperation among the members, including in the management and sustainable harvesting of fish stocks and combating illegal fishing.

“Fisheries and marine resources occupy important place in the economies and livelihood of the member countries. The association’s fisheries support unit, set up under the aegis of Oman, will function as a nodal institution to respond to the interests and requirement of member states,” the declaration said.

Earlier, India for the first time became the IOR-ARC chairman with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna assuming the top post of the association, set up 15 years ago to promote economic, including trade and investment and cultural relations among the 19 member countries.

“Over six decades ago, our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned a grouping of countries bordering the Indian Ocean that could help one another in tackling common challenges,” Krishna said at the inaugural session after taking the chair for the next two years from Yemen.

Noting that the key east-west arteries of international trade, especially in commodities and energy sources sail through the Indian Ocean, Krishna said maritime security impact strategic security of the nations in the region and advocated building functional relationships between navies and coast guards.

Expressing concern over the limited growth of intra-regional trade due to poor connectivity, market complexities and inadequate trade facilitation, he called for rectifying the situation by increasing intra-regional investment flows.

The regional bloc in which India is a founding member, was set up in Mauritius in 1997 with Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Yemen as the members.

Seychelles, which left the organisation in 2003, re-joined Tuesday to become the 19th member of IOR-ARC.

The association has also five dialogue partners - Egypt, Japan, China, Britain and France - and two observers - Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation (IOTO) and Indian Ocean Research Group (IORG).

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