Calling for greater Asian regional cooperation for the security of the Indian Ocean, defence minister AK Antony on Wednesday underlined that India was augmenting its capabilities to fight a host of interlinked threats, including piracy and terrorism.
"The various challenges, including the menace of piracy and armed robbery, drugs and arms trafficking and unregulated and unreported fishing to name a few, threaten both the short-term and long-term stability of the region," Antony told delegates attending the 8th Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM) here.
The meeting is being attended by representatives of 18 countries, including China, Japan, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Underlining India's commitment to the security of the Indian Ocean region, Antony assured that New Delhi was doing all it can to thwart a host of threats which endangers security of the region.
"We are also planning to augment our capacity in the fields of coastal security, anti-piracy, anti-terrorism operations and oil spill response capabilities. We are also willing to share our experience and expertise in evolving a coastal security mechanism to other nations," he said.
The government remains committed towards the security of the Indian Ocean Region by implementing international regulations, enacting legislations for maritime safety and security, cooperative mechanism with nations and capacity-building of law-enforcement agencies, he said.
Against this backdrop, Antony underscored the importance of cooperation and collaboration among the maritime agencies in the South Asian eegion for ensuring the security and safety of the oceans.
He stressed the commitment of India towards strengthening the Indian Coast Guard in terms of building its capacity for sustained presence in the Indian Maritime Zones.
Alluding to the joint exercises the Indian Navy and Coast Guard conduct regularly with many Asian nations, Antony said: "It shall be our endeavour to promote such cooperative mechanisms as regional cooperation agreement for combating piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in the future."
He added that nations in the region can "prevent crimes at sea through an increase in information sharing, mutual training assistance and proactive interactions."
In recent times, he said, crimes on the seas have acquired several new dimensions.
"From theft it has come to dangerous maritime terrorism with a destructive aim. Piracy has also come from hijacking in high seas to theft of cargo to taking hostages for ransom. Piracy and terrorism are not only destabilising the economy but also have serious implications for security," he pointed out.
"Top priority must be accorded to the creation of safe and secure oceans. Governments and law enforcement agencies mustimplement national and international laws that can act as a deterrent for unscrupulous elements," he told the conference.
HACGAM is an apex level forum facilitating congregation of all the major Coast Guard Agencies of the Asian region. It is conducted every year.