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IORA to act as key driving force for peace

Published : 11 Oct 2023 10:40 PM | Updated : 12 Oct 2023 04:38 PM

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) will act as a key driving force for peace, development and stability in the Indian Ocean region.

This was stressed at the 23rd Council of Ministers’ Meeting (COM) of the IORA in Colombo on Wednesday.

The Meeting started on Wednesday morning with the handing over of Chair of IORA to Sri Lanka by Bangladesh. 

At the function, Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen reiterated that Bangladesh is committed to the Vision of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

He also said that IORA will play a unifying role to strengthen economic relations among its member states through an intra-IORA trade and investment agreement and to develop a collective framework for environmental conservation and disaster risk reduction. 

Bangladesh Foreign Minister in his opening statement congratulated Sri Lanka as the incoming Chair and India as the Vice-Chair of the Association for the period 2023- 2025. 

Referring to the Indian Ocean as a 'beacon of hope', he emphasized that activities in the Indian Ocean must be conducted in a safe and secure manner. 

In the country statement that followed, as the outgoing Chair Bangladesh Foreign Minister presented to the Council an account of the contributions made by Bangladesh to IORA during its Chair-ship from 2021 to 2023 such as introducing a comprehensive and systematic compensation package for the Secretariat and streamlining its financial management. 

He also shared the progressive role played by Bangladesh to advance the activities of the Association. Referring to the ‘IORA-Development Initiative’ as devised by Bangladesh, he called upon the Dialogue Partners and IORA Member States to support this initiative and patronize other development programs in the region. 

After the Council meeting, Foreign Minister called on the President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe at the latter's office in the afternoon. 

They discussed issues of bilateral interest and underscored the need for expeditious implementation of existing sectoral cooperation with special focus on ongoing preferential trade agreement (PTA) negotiation, cooperation in business and investment, pharmaceuticals, tourism, shipping and air connectivity. 

On the sidelines, he met the British Minister for Indo-Pacific Ms. Anne-Marie Trevelyan where they discussed issues of bilateral cooperation. Foreign Minister also met other high dignitaries of IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners including the Indian External Affairs Minister, Foreign Ministers of South Africa and Malaysia and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs of US State Department. 

On the previous night, Foreign Minister attended a banquet hosted by President of Sri Lanka. 

Foreign Ministers and other high dignitaries of IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners attended the IORA COM. It was preceded by the IORA Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) from 9-10 October. Rear Admiral (Rtd) Khurshed Alam, Secretary, Maritime Affairs Unit (MAU) of Bangladesh Foreign Ministry led the Bangladesh delegation to the CSO. 

IORA COM adopted the Colombo Communique as the outcome document. 

Meanwhile, Indian online news portal ‘News18’ adds: India on Wednesday asked the countries in the Indian Ocean region to effectively address the development challenges as it warned them to be clear of the dangers of “hidden agendas” in unviable projects or unsustainable debt, in an apparent reference to China which is accused by the West of “debt trap” diplomacy.

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that it is important to maintain the Indian Ocean as a free, open and inclusive space based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), as the Constitution of the Seas.

Later in his remarks to the press, Jaishankar said India’s commitment to the IORA is deeply rooted in the principles of peaceful coexistence, shared prosperity, and regional collaboration. “For Member States to grow and prosper, development challenges must be continuously and effectively addressed. In particular, we should cooperate on various aspects of the maritime economy, resources, connectivity and security,” he said.

The member states of the IORA are Commonwealth of Australia, People's Republic of Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, French Republic, Republic of India, Republic of Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Madagascar, Malaysia, Republic of Maldives, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Mozambique, Sultanate of Oman, Republic of Seychelles, Republic of Singapore, Federal Republic of Somalia , Republic of South Africa, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, United Republic of Tanzania, Kingdom of Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Republic of Yemen.

All sovereign States of the Indian Ocean Rim are eligible for membership of the Association. To become members, States must adhere to the principles and objectives enshrined in the Charter of the Association.

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