In a bid to expand its engagement in the region, the US has stepped up efforts to become a dialogue partner for the 19-member grouping of the Indian Ocean rim countries, known as the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
India has already welcomed the move, and the two countries have agreed to increase cooperation in the region.
However, Iran is set to oppose the move, making it difficult for the US to join because the group states that “all matters and issues at all levels should be taken on the basis of consensus”.
The issue is expected to figure in the meeting of US deputy secretary of state William Burns here on Friday.
He will meet national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai on Friday.
India is hosting the apex body of the IOR-ARC, the council of ministers meet at the foreign minister-level, in Gurgaon on November 2. The meet is likely to focus on issues such as maritime security.
At present, the dialogue partners of the grouping are China, Japan, UK, France and Egypt. As the grouping is of considerable economic and strategic importance, the US would now like to make its presence felt too.
The prominent members of the grouping are India, Australia, South Africa, Oman, UAE, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Kenya, Indonesia, Mauritius and Malaysia. As many of these nations share close security ties with the US, it will be consistent with the greater interest shown by Washington in the region.
“Minister Krishna welcomed the US interest in becoming a dialogue partner with the IOR-ARC, and conveyed that as the current chair, India will take it forward with other IOR-ARC members,” the joint statement issued after the third round of strategic dialogue with US in Washington had said.
Indian Ocean is vital for the transportation of oil and conduct of other forms of global trade.
As far as India is concerned, over 97% of its international trade by volume and 75% by value passes through it. Though the IOR-ARC is yet to find its bearings, it has great economic potential — its combined GDP is likely to cross $9 trillion by 2016.