India pitches for global strategy to fight piracy

India pitched for a collective global strategy and a joint naval task force to fight the scourge of piracy.

Bangalore: India on Monday pitched for a collective global strategy and a joint naval task force to fight the scourge of piracy, that could also include other powers like the US and China, and pushed for greater trade among countries surrounding the Indian Ocean.

"There are number of issues that seem to bother us. Piracy on sea is one of them. It is necessary that all the nations in the region collectively work out a strategy to fight the menace, which cannot be fought by a single country," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters here Monday.

He was speaking a day before the meeting of the 11th council of ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), an 18-member body that was set up for promoting greater economic, security and cultural cooperation between these countries.

Underlining the growing geo-political importance of the Indian Ocean, Krishna said it was necessary for all the countries in the region to make efforts to understand the dynamics of the situation and inject economic content in the evolving regional body.

The meeting will discuss, among other things, forming a joint naval task force to fight the menace of piracy in the sea lanes of the member countries.

"We will be working out a common strategy after knowing the perception of other members since the concern is same for all," he said.

"As piracy cannot be fought by only member countries in the region, we will have to involve other countries as the menace has become a global scourge," Krishna said.

Responding to a question, Krishna said piracy cannot be fought by the 18-nation regional grouping alone and other countries, including China and the US, would have to be made part of the collective strategy to fight it. "We will have to strengthen our sea-lane communication systems," he said.

Economic development, including ways to promote trade and tourism, will be another focus area at the meeting.

India has formally taken over from Yemen the chair of IOR-ARC for a period of two years. Krishna will chair the meeting. Bilateral trade between India and other IOR-ARC member countries is estimated to be $280 billion per year.

The meeting is expected to adopt a `Bangalore Declaration` on enhancing cooperation among the member countries in tourism, culture, education, skill development, fisheries, small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), infrastructure, maritime transport cooperation and combating natural disasters.

The association 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 member-countries.

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).

"During the meeting, an agreement will be signed by the Sultanate of Oman government and the IOR-ARC fisheries support unit to pave way for its operationalisation," secretary (economic relations) in the external affairs ministry Sudhir Vyas told reporters.

In the run-up to the day-long summit, representatives of Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum, Indian Ocean Rim Working Group on Trade and Investment, Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group and the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) met here since Nov 9 to draft reports on the regional cooperation initiatives.

The meeting will also adopt the recommendation on an agreement and draft statute of the regional centre for science and transfer of technology at Tehran in Iran.


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