India on Friday pitched for deeper economic ties in the Indian Ocean Region and also called for strengthening maritime security.
Speaking at the 12th Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Coorporation (IOR-ARC) meet, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid sought more robust cooperative regionalism and emphasised the geo-strategic importance of the area.
He said now that the focus of global economic growth has shifted to Asia, the grouping occupies even greater salience in India's strategic perspective.
The 19 countries of the IOR-ARC resolved to further strengthen cooperation between the member countries to ensure sustained growth and balanced economic development of the region.
“We envision IOR-ARC as a regional body that can respond effectively to this need and enhance our individual and collective capacities to deal with contemporary challenges facing our common maritime domain," Khurshid said, while calling for reinvigorating the Indian Ocean body.
Khurshid stressed on promoting sustained growth and balanced development of the region as a strategy to ensure maritime security.
"Economic development cooperation requires a conducive environment to flower. Security of maritime commerce and safety of seafarers are of concern to all of us," he said.
"There is a need, for example, to be more precise in defining high-risk areas in the Indian Ocean, based on actual incidents of piracy, as this impacts adversely on insurance premiums and adds to the cost of shipping in our region," he said.
India will host an IOR-ARC seminar on maritime security in early 2013 and New Delhi said it could be institutionalised as a regional forum for discussing security-related issues.
The meeting of council of ministers of the 19-member regional grouping, which brings together countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean, unanimously approved the inclusion of the US as a dialogue partner. Currently, Japan, Egypt, France and Britain are dialogue partners in the IOR-ARC.
The American entry is set to provide greater strategic heft to the IOR-ARC and is widely seen as an attempt to counter-balance the Chinese maritime assertiveness in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region.
The association currently has 19 members: Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the UAE and Yemen and the newwest member, Union of Comoros.