Amid China power play in Indian Ocean, India to focus on invigorating IORA

Against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean turning into a theatre of geopolitical competition and increased Chinese forays into this strategic water body, the 21 littoral nations whose shores are washed by this strategically located resource-rich body will hold its first ever summit of leaders in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on March 7.
India, a preeminent Indian Ocean power, has high stakes in moulding the outcomes of the maiden summit of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The first IORA summit is special as it also marks the 20th anniversary of the grouping of the Indian Ocean littoral states. Ideally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been trying to shape a strategic and cooperative vision of the Indian Ocean Region, should be participating in the summit, but the crucial elections in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh has kept him away from this important gathering of leaders of the region. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, a veteran diplomat, is expected to unveil India’s agenda and priorities at the summit in Jakarta on March 7.
Blue will be the reigning colour at the IORA leaders’ discussions in Jakarta. If all goes well, the summit should come out with a joint plan for the development of the blue economy which entails sustainable development of ocean resources by avoiding debilitating resource competition. Prime Minister Modi is an ardent proponent of the blue economy.
The increasing strategic salience of the Indian Ocean can’t be overemphasised. China will be the elephant in the room when the leaders of IORA nations meet in Jakarta as most of them have some form of China anxiety.

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Blue Economy: India, Seychelles take a leap forward

In a major leap forward for New Delhi’s interests in the strategic Indian Ocean region, India and Seychelles have signed a pact for cooperation on Blue Economy to promote sustainable ocean development in the region. India has decided to gift one more Interceptor Coastguard boat to Seychelles, and formally signed a pact for giving a second Dornier aircraft to the Indian Ocean island nation, a key commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Seychelles in March this year.

“In March, I had announced that we would gift a second Dornier aircraft to Seychelles. I am pleased that we have completed the process quickly and signed the agreement today,” Mr Modi said in a joint media interaction with Seychelles President James Alix Michel in New Delhi on August 25.

“President and I place strong emphasis on Ocean or Blue Economy. I believe, as he does, that we should look at small island countries as large ocean states with vast potential”, said Mr Modi.

“We are honoured to be a partner in providing aircraft, naval vessels and coastal radar systems for strengthening surveillance capacities. Our cooperation in hydrography surveys is extensive and growing,” Mr Modi stressed.

India’s burgeoning cooperation with Seychelles comes against Beijing’s growing forays into the Indian Ocean region, which New Delhi is prone to regard as its backyard.

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