INDIA ADMITTED AS OBSERVER TO IOC
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India was admitted to the Indian Ocean Commission as an observer after it applied last month to be considered for observer status.
- The decision was taken at the meeting of the IOC Conference of ministers in Seychelles making India the fifth observer.
- The other four observers China, Malta, European Union and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).
- The five-member grouping is important given India’s plans to expand in The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) which is strategically connects the Indian Ocean to the South eastern coast of Africa and beyond.
- It will facilitate collective engagement with the islands in the Western Indian Ocean that are becoming strategically significant.
- Given China’s growing presence in the region, India will be able to increase its naval presence and gain support for its maritime projects across the Indo-Pacific.
- The member states are known to be erstwhile French colonies or partly British, partly French colonies. With France a member of IOC because of Reunion Islands, they played a key role in ensuring India’s admission.
- Observer status will also help to boost cooperation with France that has a strong presence in the western Indian ocean.
- The IOC islands are situated around one of the key chokepoints in the Indian Ocean- the Mozambique Channel.
- The Mozambique Channel is an arm of the Indian Ocean located between the African countries of Madagascar and Mozambique.
- The Mozambique Channel lost its significance post the opening of the Suez Canal, but the recent hostilities near the Strait of Hormuz brought the channel back into focus as the original route for bigger commercial vessels (especially for oil tankers).
- Potential of natural gas reserves in the Mozambique Channel further increases the significance of the region.
- It will help to extend India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) policy in the region.
- SAGAR is an articulation of India’s vision for the Indian Ocean which aims for enhancement of capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories & interests; deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral; action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism.
Indian Ocean Commission:
- The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) is an intergovernmental body created in 1984 to protect the interests of the Western Indian Ocean islands.
- It consists of Madagascar, Comoros, La Réunion (French overseas territory), Mauritius and Seychelles.
- OIF is a 54 french speaking nations collective.
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