In what is being regarded as India’s most comprehensive articulation of its stakes and strategy in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the region among the country’s ‘top policy priorities’ and laid out five principles which will govern Delhi’s approach.
Speaking in Mauritius after the commissioning of offshore petrol vessel, Barracuda, Modi stressed on the importance of the Indian Ocean and conceded that India tended to focus more on the continental neighbourhood in recent history. The fact that India is becoming more integrated globally means its dependence on the ocean has increased, and thus India ‘must assume responsibility to shape its future’, Modi said.
Laying out principles, Modi said India would ‘do everything to safeguard our mainland and islands and defend our interests’. “Second, we will deepen our economic and security cooperation with our friends in the region especially our maritime neighbours and island states.”
Third, India would emphasise on ‘collective action’ as a way to advance peace and security in the maritime region — which is why, Modi said, India had promoted the Indian Ocean Symposium which brought together 35 navies. He referred to maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives and hoped others would join it soon.
Four, India would seek a ‘more integrated and cooperative future’ — which meant greater collaboration in a range of areas, using the Indian Ocean Rim Organisation and pursuing with ‘new vigour’ a regional grouping around the Indian Ocean.
In the backdrop of China expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean, Modi — in his fifth point — said there are ‘other nations’ with ‘strong interests and stakes’ in the region. “Our goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other’s interests; and increase in maritime cooperation.”