Indian ocean rim association background
Indian ocean rim association: France is the country that recently joined the Indian Ocean Basin Association. It joined the organization on December 18, 2020. The Council of the IORA Conference held on December 17, 2020 approved France’s application to join the organization in 2020. With France becoming a new member, the total number of IORA members now reaches 23.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) – formerly known as Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) – currently represents a grouping of 21(of 36) countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen) whose shores are washed by the Indian Ocean and collectively aims at enhancing economic cooperation for sustained development and balanced economic growth of its members. It has 7
Dialogue Partners: China, Egypt, France, Japan, UK, USA and Germany. The name IORA was adopted in November 2013 in Perth, Australia during the 13th meeting of Foreign Ministers.
The IORA Secretariat is located at Port Louis, Mauritius and is currently headed by Ambassador KV Bhagirath, IFS (Retd). India, South Africa, Indonesia and Australia have seconded one Director each to the Secretariat.
The highest level of the Association is the Council Of Ministers (COM) bringing together Foreign Ministers of the member countries; other mechanisms include the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), IOR Academic Group (bringing together scholars/scientists/experts), IOR Business Forum (bringing together business communities of member countries) and the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI).
The first ever IORA Leaders’ Summit is scheduled to be held on March 7, 2017 at Jakarta, Indonesia to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Association.
IORA has established two Specialised Agencies; the Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT) based at Tehran, Iran and the Fisheries Support Unit (FSU) based at Oman. These two agencies play a special role in fostering close cooperation in their respective areas.
The Chair of IORA is on a rotational basis for a 2 year duration. Indonesia is the current Chair (since 2015) and South Africa will assume the Chairmanship post the Summit. India was the Chair from 2011-2013.
Successful Endeavours of IORA/Indian ocean rim association/
The specialized mechanisms of the IORA created for the benefit of Member States include:
IORA Special Fund: The First Meeting of the IORA High Level Task Force (HLTF) held in October 2001 in Sri Lanka mooted the concept of an IORA Special Fund as a financial mechanism for supporting and complementing the funding of projects and programmes adopted by the Association, in line with the principles and objectives enshrined in the Charter as well as the objectives and goals envisaged by the relevant organs of the Association. Accordingly, the Special Fund was established in 2006 at the 6th Council of Ministers in Tehran and is being successfully utilized since.
IORA Sustainable Development Programme: In 2014, the “IORA
Sustainable Development Programme” (ISDP) was developed with a special focus on the practical requirements of lesser developed Member States, in order to encourage their active participation and to optimize benefits arising from IORA cooperation.
IORA Specialized Agencies:
There are currently two Specialized Agencies affiliated with the IORA through a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) — the Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT) headquartered in Iran and the Fisheries Support Unit (FSU) headquartered in Oman. These two Specialized Agencies have immensely benefited IORA by hosting various workshops/activities, resulting in capacity building and knowledge sharing.
Chair of Indian Ocean Studies/Indian ocean rim association/
TheIORA Chair in Indian Ocean Studies (CIOS) was revived in 2014 after a gap of almost 15 years. The CIOS is jointly sponsored by India and Mauritius. The present CIOS (Prof Atri) is from India. The work of the Chair literally started from scratch. The CIOS’ primary task is to play a bridging role in fostering research activities and studies in IORA priority areas with other academic institutions of IORA Member States.Prof. Atri has been successful in forging linkages with Universities across different IORA countries and has delivered lectures on strengthening regionalism, especially in the economic and commercial sector.
Apart from a multitude of initiatives ranging from workshops to training programmes to conferences, the IORA today has four ministerial levels of specialized engagement – Trade, Blue Economy, Renewable Energy and Tourism.
A few notable events are:
- The first ever IORA Ministerial Conference – the Economic and Business Conference (EBC-I) – was held in Mauritius on 4-5 July 2013, co-hosted by Mauritius and India (then Chair) with a thrust on trade and investment.
- The 1st IORA Ministerial Forum in Renewable Energy was hosted by the United Arab Emirates on 21 Jan 2014.
- The 1st IORA Tourism Ministerial Meeting was held in Seychelles on 21 Nov 2014.
- The 1stIORA Ministerial Blue Economy Conference was convened at Mauritius on September 2-3, 2015
The success of all these conferences has been continued through various follow-up conferences/meetings as well as spin-offs resulting in projects.
This year itself, the 2nd Ministerial Economic and Business Conference (EBC-II) was held in the United Arab Emirates on 11-13 April 2016. An outcome of this meeting was the requirement for an MoU for cooperation in the SME sector. MEA along with the MSME conducted a workshop to draft the MOU from January 19-20, 2017 in New Delhi. The draft has already been circulated to all member states for further comments.
The IORA has also pursued its efforts to engage its seven Dialogue Partner States in itspriority sectors. At the recent COM held in Bali, there was a separate session dedicated to interaction of Member States with Dialogue Partners.
India and IORA:
The year 2011 marked a turning point for the IORA when India took over as Chair of the organization. A major revitalization, in keeping with the emerging geo-strategic challenges that confronted the Indian Ocean region commenced, with re-formulation of IORA priorities taking center-stage.
At the 11th COM Meeting in Bengaluru in November 2011, six priority areaswere identified on the basis of an Indian proposal to focus cooperation amongst member states of IORA in the years to come. These include the following:-
(a) Maritime Safety and Security
(b) Trade and Investment Facilitation
(c) Fisheries Management
(d) Disaster Risk Management
(e) Academic, Science and Technology
(f) Tourism and Cultural Exchange
The six “Priority Sectors” resulted in clearly defining the way forward for the organization and focusing the efforts along these priority areas.This was followed by the decision of the other three G-20 countries- Australia, Indonesia and South Africa deciding to take leadership roles as succeeding Chairs of IORA.
Prime Minster of India remarked during his visit to Mauritius on March 12, 2015, “Our Indian Ocean Rim Association can be an important instrument for pursuing our vision for a sustainable and prosperous future in the region….We often define regional groupings around landmass. The time has come for a strong grouping around the Indian Ocean. We will pursue this with new vigor in the years ahead…. We seek a future for Indian Ocean that lives up to the name of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.”
India’s vision for the organisation was outlined by the Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) Dr. VK Singh during the 15th COM meeting at Padang, Indonesia on 23 October 2015. He stated that India will adopt a ten point approach between the 15
The IORA Ministerial until the next Ministerial in Indonesia.
The proposals which India agreed to examine for feasibility included:-
(i) Working closely with Mauritius and other IORA partners to set up an IORA virtual university with an aim to launch it in 2017 when IORA marks its 20th Anniversary. This initiative has now been on hold for the last one year.
(ii)To offer capacity-building programmes to scientists from IORA partners at the Indian National Centre on Ocean Information Services in Hyderabad. Remote Sensing and Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ), Ocean Data Processing and Applications, Ocean Climate Modelling, Standard Operating Procedure for Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response are some of the broad themes addressed through these training programmes. We had circulated flyers on the courses on offer by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad during the CSO meet at Yogyakarta, Indonesia on May 2224, 2016 to solicit participation from member countries.
Offer of a Special Training Course for IORA Diplomats at theForeign Service Institute in New Delhi.
Some of the IORA members are already availing of special training courses at FSI, we offered 5 vacancies to IORA member states in the special training course commencing May 2016. One participant each from Bangladesh, Comoros and Seychelles attended the course.
(iv) Organising workshops on Women’s Empowerment in 2016. We
have decided to combine it with Ser (e) to optimise the utilisation of the resources.
(v)Organising workshop on Skill Development of Youths in India. We have now combined the two events to optimise the utilisation of the resources.
(vi) Committed to strengthen IORA Secretariat India has seconded Ms Ruchika Rishi to the IORA Secretariat at Mauritius since May 2017.
She has now been re-designated as a Director.
(vii) India has also completed its commitment to provision office equipment including 6 laptops, two desktops, Volume Licences and a photocopying machine to the IORA Secretariat.
(viii) Institutionalizing of the Blue Economy Dialogue and its 2nd edition in India on November 4, 2016. India had organised the 1st edition of this event at Goa in August 2016. Five major themes were examined during the first Dialogue; viz. (1) Developing a
Comprehensive Accounting Framework for Blue Economy
(2)Fisheries and Aquaculture (3) Renewable Ocean Energy (4) Ports, Shipping, Manufacturing and Other Sectors (5) Sea-bed Exploration and Minerals. The 2nd edition of the Dialogue was organised by RIS in New Delhi on November 4-5, 2016. RIS is working towards the
finalisation of an outcome document which will outline an action plan to further the Blue Economy dialogue at the forthcoming Ministerial on Blue Economy at Mauritius and the Leaders’Summitscheduled in March 2017.
Initiatives by India:
There has been a view from certain Member States that India should take a more dominant role in the IORA. After the formation of the IOR Division, India has initiated several projects / conferences in order to resurrect India’s image and take on a more lead position in the IORA. In consonance with the strategic vision of the Prime Minister of India for engagement in the Indian Ocean Region and to support India’s larger role in IORA, the following initiatives are under process:
(i) The 2 nd Blue Economy Dialogue in New Delhi which was conducted by
RIS from November 4-5, 2016.This dialogue was aimed to be different from the first (held in Goa in Aug 2015), and an attempt to engage the Member States more strongly. The outcome document will provide inputs for discussion during the IORA Blue Economy Ministerial meet in Mauritius in May 2017.
(ii) An ‘Indian Ocean Seminar’was organised at the India International Centre, New Delhi by Ambassador Yogendra Kumar on November 19, 2016. The event was Webcast to facilitate participation from all the IORA member states remotely. This was the first time that such a Webcast was tried out at any event in IORA.
(iii) The 4th International Relations Conference (IRC) of Symbiosis International University titled “India and the Indian Ocean: Sustainability, Security and Development” was organised from December 18-19, 2016 at Symbiosis Campus at Pune. The conference was attended by Ministers, diplomats, academicians from various IORA countries.
(iv) A Small and Medium Enterprises workshop to draft an MOU on cooperation in the SME sector for IORA countries was conducted from January 19-20, 2017. The workshop saw wide participation from member states and the resultant draft MoU has been recirculated for final comments to the headquarters of all Member States. The IORA Secretary General and member states acknowledged that this was the first such attempt at MoU and congratulated India (MEA/MSME) for the initiative.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has identified eight priority areas, namely:
- Maritime security,
- Trade and investment facilitation,
- Fisheries management,
- Disaster risk reduction,
- Academic and scientific cooperation and
- Tourism promotion and cultural exchanges.
- Blue Economy
- Women’s Economic Empowerment
The Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD)
- The Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD) is a flagship initiative of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
- It is originated in the 13th Council of Ministers meeting, held in 2013 in Perth, Australia.
- The first IOD was held in Kerala, India in 2014,
- Areas of discussion includes economic cooperation, maritime safety and security, blue economy, human assistance and disaster relief, etc.
- The 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue will be held in New Delhi on 13th and 14th December 2019.
IORA Sustainable Development Program (ISDP)
- The ISDP is a project-based program intended to meet the needs of the Member States of the IORA.
- Project proposals are formulated by the Member countries in collaboration with IORA Secretariat.
- As an instrument of sustainable development, the ISDP Program is expected to strengthen regional cooperation and forge new partnerships within the IORA Member States and with Dialogue Partners.
- Encouraging lesser developed member countries to participate in IORA.
- Encouraging capacity building, peer-to-peer learning and sharing of information to IORA member countries.
- Enhancing and strengthening bonds amongst member countries.
- Extending opportunities to lesser developed member countries to share their experience and expertise in specific areas that would benefit their economies.
- Encouraging less developed member countries to host various IORA events.
IORA faces several obstacles that prevent it from growing into a highly successful and influential regional organization; these issues range from structural deficiencies to geopolitical conflicts existing outside IORA that permeate the organization and prevent cooperation.
Diverse States, Diverse Objectives
- Though IORA’s large membership affords it with the ability to understand perspectives of a wide array of nations in the Indian Ocean Region, it also creates differences in objectives, in what successful maritime security cooperation would look like, among member states.
- Economically and developmentally, IORA brings together some of the world’s richest countries – the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Australia – with some of the poorest, such as Mozambique, and island nations with very low GDPs, such as Seychelles; this creates uneven benefits from participation in IORA projects and can lead to economic competition and resentment among member states.
Overlapping Regional Organizations
- IORA faces competition with other regional and international organizations for member states’ attention and investments; in fact, 14 such bodies have IORA member states in their membership.
- Interstate conflicts have greatly hindered the strengthening of IORA, most notably through India’s intentional exclusion of Pakistan from IORA membership.
- Though the India-Pakistan dispute has generally been terrestrial, it has manifested itself in IORA, as noted above; in the maritime realm; and in other regional maritime organization.
- Pakistan and India have recently engaged in an arms race for nuclear submarine technology, with each state having equipped its navy with nuclear weapons to some extent.
- In addition, recent Chinese involvement in the Indian Ocean Region, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative, has further sparked Indian distrust of a key nation in the strengthening of IORA, in this case, a dialogue partner.
- Though experts contend that Chinese involvement in the Indian Ocean Region has the potential to greatly benefit IORA proposals, especially those related to the Blue Economy, India sees such involvement as an attempt to shift power in the region from India to China and pushes back accordingly.
19th Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers Meeting
- The 19thIndian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers (COM) Meeting was held in Abu Dhabi (UAE).
- Theme – “Promoting a Shared Destiny and Path to Prosperity in the Indian Ocean”.
- South Africa was the chair for the period of 2017-2019.
- The meeting was attended by IORA’s 22 Member States and nine Dialogue Partners.
- Inspite of being the major regional association, IORA has not been able to achieve major traction over the past two decades of its existence. India has been hailed for its stewardship to steer the path by defining the six priority areas of IORA during its chairmanship from 2011-2013.
- India has once again taken the lead to resurrect the role of IORA in the region. To achieve this, India has taken on a lead role and set forth major initiatives across all the priority areas and also areas of concern for the IORA member states. India has taken a pivotal role in the association in tandem with the PMs strategic vision for engagements in the IOR as defined by SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.
- All the initiatives piloted by India have been appreciated by the IORA secretariat as well as the Member States during the last Council of Ministers meet. All the initiatives have been well thought out and spread over the entire year and have gained significant traction. Four of the initiatives, namely the Blue Economy Dialogue, the Indian Ocean Seminar, The International Relations Council conference and the Workshop to draft an MoU for cooperation in the SME sector have already been completed and have been heralded as significant successful events of IORA.
- The reflection of this dedication and commitment to IORA at the first Leader’s Summit on March 7, 2017 will signal India’s pivotal role in IORA.
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