Jakarta: India on Tuesday pressed the countries sharing the Indian Ocean to show zero tolerance towards "State-sponsored terrorism" and isolate and impose "strong sanctions" on the perpetrators and financiers of the menace, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, while addressing the first summit of the Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA), underlined that terrorism is an impediment to development and a threat to all open and pluralistic societies.
At the summit themed 'Strengthening maritime cooperation for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indian Ocean', he said the Ocean must be protected from "traditional and non-traditional threats, particularly piracy" and all those using these international waters must act with responsibility and restraint.
He also made some proposals which India would like to implement for the safety of the Indian Ocean and making it a zone of prosperity and harmony.
"Today, terrorism has become the major impediment to development and threatens all pluralist and open societies," Ansari told the gathering of leaders from the 21-member countries and representatives of 7 Dialogue Partners here in the Indonesian capital.
Asserting that "no cause justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians", the Vice President said, "IORA must show zero tolerance for State-sponsored terrorism", in an apparent reference to Pakistan which indulges in such activities. Pakistan is not a member of the IORA.
"The perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of terrorism must be isolated and face strong sanctions," he said.
"We have reiterated our commitment to combating terrorism by adopting the IORA Declaration on countering violent extremism," he said. Ansari said the IORA members should "help each other by sharing intelligence, securing our cyberspace, and minimising the use of internet and social media for terrorist activities".
He said there was "a pressing requirement to work out the modalities for institutionalising an IORA cooperation mechanism to this end by pooling the resources available with the member states".
India, the vice president said, shares the vision for a peaceful region and the seas around it. "We believe that our ocean must be protected from traditional and non-traditional threats, particularly piracy," he said.
He described the IORA Concord signed at the summit on Tuesday as "a milestone document" that underscores the criticality of maritime safety and security.
In a veiled reference to China's growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, Ansari said, "All using these international waters must act with responsibility and restraint".
"We have an imperative need for open trade and open sea lanes that carry it," Ansari said.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds as well as oil and gas deposits.
"I call upon the IORA member states to ensure that the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the Indian Ocean is respected by all, as an expression of our commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
He said maritime safety and security can be reinforced by institutionalising cooperative mechanisms such as White Shipping Agreements and by setting up an Information Fusion Centre for strengthening Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
"My government would be happy to host such a centre in India, with our in-house expertise supplemented by support from IORA member countries," he said.
Ansari said the Indian Ocean is at the crossroads of global trade as the Ocean and its littoral are rich in natural resources and a home to more than 2.3 billion people. "This creates limitless opportunities for growth and prosperity," he said. He noted that the Indian Ocean region is marked by great diversity of cultures and levels of economic development.
"Yet for centuries the people on the shores of this ocean have been linked by the winds that blow across it. These facilitated exchanges of ideas through trade, religion and culture." He said the IORA member States recognise that the sea does not separate; rather it is a bridge that connects.
"We have made a beginning by unveiling Project Mausam to re-kindle our cultural linkages. The recent launch of the Kalinga Indonesia Dialogue, that reminiscences an inspiring part of our history, is a welcome initiative. We look forward to more creative engagements, both bilateral and collective, among the member States," Ansari said.
He said India will also be happy to share its hydrographical capability with the member states for better navigation and understanding of marine topography.
He proposed a network of think tanks to enable the collation of available resources with member countries. This would help synergise the efforts of individual member States.
"In this context, I am happy to announce the intention of my government to establish 'IORA Centre of Excellence (ICE)' in one of the coastal cities of India. The objective would be to provide academics and researchers access to a collective source of data and resource material. We will shortly be circulating a concept note on the proposed Centre through the IORA Secretariat," he said.
Referring to the action plan adopted today, he described it as "a vision of our shared priorities" and said "India stands committed to working with other members to realise the region’s untapped potential and to ensure that the Indian Ocean becomes a zone of prosperity and harmony".
The Association comprises India, Australia, Bangladesh, Iran, Kenya, Comoros, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It also has seven Dialogue Partners -- the US, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan and the UK.
Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 14:39 PM