Singapore: Seeking deeper economic ties and maritime security among countries in the Indian Ocean region, India on Friday said it is committed to building up Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in line with its own expanding bilateral ties with the members of the grouping.
"We will be supportive in the expansion and further invigoration of its activities, from renewable energy and the blue economy to maritime safety and security, water science and greater institutional and think-tank networking," Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said in a keynote address to the inaugural Indian Ocean Conference here.
"Given the history and traditions of the Indian Ocean, it is but appropriate that any serious effort at promoting its coherence would address issues of its unity and identity," he said.
"We must take full advantage of the ties of kinship and family that span the Indian Ocean and are an important part of its history," he said.
But more active initiatives are also needed, said the Foreign Secretary, drawing attention to Project Mausam, which promotes archaeological and historical research on cultural, commercial and religious interactions.
"If this is an example of a contemporary initiative to revive the ocean's identity, let me emphasise that there are many other supporting endeavours that contribute to the same objective," he said.
He also called for direction to create the connectivity that promotes a sharper Indian Ocean personality to emerge.
Jaishankar illustrated on India's commitment to the region.
"We are similarly looking at more aggressively developing some of our 1200 islands. Road and rail development projects are improving internal logistical efficiency. Of particular significance is the steady unfolding of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
"We expect this to be followed by an eastern corridor and a southern one covering Bengaluru to Chennai. If you juxtapose these infrastructure initiatives with the 'Make in India' programme, the implications for the Indian Ocean are quite evident," he told some over 300 delegates from 21 member states at the conference.
"None probably would be opposed but few actually have the necessary enthusiasm or appetite," he said.
At a diplomatic level, promoting greater interaction among the groupings formed by littoral states would itself make an important contribution to the Indian Ocean, he said.
But more important, it is necessary to bridge physically the boundaries between them, he said.
"A good example is the India-Myanmar border where the SAARC meets ASEAN. While land connectivity is obviously critical, we must also recognise that the under-development of maritime infrastructure is itself largely responsible for the profile of the Indian Ocean," he said.