India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have agreed a long-term strategy to address threats to maritime security such as piracy, terrorism and gunrunning in the Indian Ocean.
The three countries agreed the move at the Trilateral Co-operation on Maritime Security meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon met the Maldives’ defence minister Mohammed Nazim and Sri Lanka’s defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
They discussed the need for sustainable development of the maritime environment, on which the three countries depend for free flow of trade and energy.
It is hoped the agreement will be expanded to include other nations, especially allies on the eastern coast of Africa and Oman.
The three countries have agreed to collaborate on maritime domain awareness; strengthening the co-ordination of maritime search and rescue; promoting marine oil pollution response co-operation; and the sharing of information on illegal maritime activities and piracy.
Dryad Maritime Intelligence director of intelligence Ian Millen said the Indian Ocean Security Pact was an important step in countering the threats to the sustainable and safe use of the maritime environment.
It demonstrated the commitment of the signatories to tackling, among other things, piracy and other threats in their own back yards, he said.
India was clearly the partner that could bring the greatest resources to the initiative in terms of overall capability, but the value of information-sharing and joint planning could not be overstated, he said.
The range of Somali pirate operations has been reduced significantly. However, as recently as March 2012, the 2000-built, 63,400 dwt bulker Eglantine was hijacked just 200 miles northwest of the Maldives.
Mr Millen said: “This tri-lateral co-operation will also give the regional nations a more powerful voice when it comes to the contentious issue of the extent of the high-risk area of the Indian Ocean, which results in high concentrations of merchant shipping routing close to the Indian coastline — an area full of regional traders and fishermen and the scene of the tragic shooting of innocent fishermen in the Enrica Lexie incident of February 2012.”
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