Amid the ongoing stand-off with China, India will host the defence ministers of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for a conclave on 4 February, focusing on security concerns and collaborative efforts. India also hopes to sell some indigenously developed defence equipment to the countries of the IOR.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the conclave will be part of the Aero India event scheduled next month in Bengaluru, and its theme will be ‘Enhanced peace, security and cooperation in the Indian Ocean’. Invites have been sent out to 28 countries with the option of attending physically or virtually, with sources labelling the conclave a ‘hybrid’ event.
The conclave will be followed by two seminars by the Indian Navy and the Department of Defence Production.
The IOR is of strategic importance to India, which sees the region as a natural extension of its sphere of influence, the sources said. India has gone from calling itself the next “security provider” in the IOR to the “preferred security partner”.
China’s expanding footprint
The IOR is a geographical construct bound by Africa to the west, Asia to the north and east, and Australia to the South East. The region produces more than 40 per cent of the world’s offshore petroleum, and is home to rapidly growing economies.
A paper published in 2017 by think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation on China’s expanding maritime footprint in the IOR had said: “The Indian Ocean will loom large in Chinese strategic thinking well into the future, considering their current interests and their continuing ingress into newer regions.
While Chinese strategic analysts may profess the absence of an enunciated strategy for the IOR, the signs are there for everybody to see.”