Release of ‘Quadripartite Commission Report on Indian Ocean Security’, at the Vivekananda International Foundation, 22 Aug 2018
Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF

Amb Kanwal Sibal, Mr. Hideki Asari, Minister (Political Affairs) Embassy of Japan in India, Mr Nobuo Tanaka, Vice Adm Anil Chopra, Dr Vijay Sakhuja, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Vivekananda International Foundation, I extend a warm welcome to all on the Release of the Report of Quadripartite Commission on Indian Ocean Security.

In 2016, Vivekananda International Foundation, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Japan, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA and National Security College, Australia came together to form a Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Security to examine the emerging security trends in the Indian Ocean Region. Two international conferences, one in Delhi and one in Tokyo were held.

Political, economic and security landscape in the Indian Ocean Region is changing rapidly. Indian Ocean has some of the busiest maritime trade and energy routes in the world. It is also vulnerable to piracy, armed robbery and terrorist attacks by the non-state actors. China’s acquisition of ports and ports infrastructures across the Indian Ocean in the framework of Maritime Silk Route, the rapid modernisation of its Navy, and its occupation of the disputed Islands in South China Sea has added worrying dimension to regional security. The international community is struggling to find a suitable response to these developments. The Quadripartite Commission has comprehensively analysed the emerging security challenges and made several important recommendations relevant for diplomacy, economy, environment and humanitarian security, and defence and security.

The need for a rule-based order in the region is keenly felt and endorsed by most countries. The emergence of Quad as a forum of cooperation between India, Australia, Japan and US has attracted widespread attention. The Chinese have been anxious about Quad while the ASEAN has been non-committal about the new grouping. PM Modi, during his Shangri La address in Singapore in Jun 2018, clarified India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and not aimed that any third country. This should reassure the Chinese. However, the fundamental fault lines in the Indo-Pacific security space remain. The Quad members have not been able to put forward consensus statement as yet on the Indo-Pacific, and, how they intend to organise their cooperation in defence, security, economic and other areas. The Quad meetings have been held on official level so far rather than a political level.

It may be mentioned that Quad is not the only institution in the region. A lot of cooperation is happening amongst the various states in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral formats. Indian Ocean Regional Association (IORA) has emerged as an important regional cooperation organisation. Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) has played a major role in promoting stability. The navies and the coast guards of the region meet regularly in the framework of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS). sASEAN countries lead discussion and consultation within the framework of ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus framework. Malabar exercises are also held regularly. In fact, there is no shortage of institutional cooperation. However, there is also a general feeling that the challenges are mounting and effective regional cooperation is still lacking.

The recommendations of the Quadripartite Commission are comprehensive and could help policy makers in charting out a roadmap of practical cooperation. For instance, one of the recommendations is about holding an Annual Planning Conference to undertake coordinated action in the area of defence and security. Another recommendation is that Australia, India Japan and the US should cooperate to increase maritime domain awareness in the region. Yet another recommendation talked about involving China to ensure the safety of navigation to critical energy groups, including in the Persian Gulf.

It is hoped that these recommendations would be considered by the policy makers and also stimulate an informed debate in wider strategic circles and how more stable security environment in the Indian Ocean Region can be promoted.

Thank You.

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