Former Indian National Security Advisor, Ambassador Shivshankar Menon, is to chair a meeting in Colombo which will focus on Indian Ocean security issues.
Pathfinder Foundation, which initiated a series of regional and international conferences on issues of direct interest to Sri Lanka commencing 2017, will convene on March 18, the first meeting of the International Advisory Group (IAG) set up to prepare for the ‘Indian Ocean Security & Governance Conference’ scheduled to be held in 2020.
The meeting of the IAG, which will be chaired by Ambassador Shivshankar Menon will be attended by Track II participants from Australia, China, France, India, Japan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Singapore, the UK and the US.
Under its regional conference series, PF convened two successful events in 2017 and 2018 under the theme ‘Trincomalee Consultations’. The topic of the 2017 conference was ‘Regional Cooperation for Economic and Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal’ and the second event held in 2018, focused on ‘Secure and Safe Bay of Bengal for Common Development and Prosperity’.
‘Trincomalee Consultations 2018’ concluded that studies should be undertaken on areas such as Development of Trincomalee as a modern harbour to meet maritime needs of the Bay of Bengal community; Potential for developing Trincomalee as an energy hub by constructing refineries and utilizing available storage capacity to serve the countries in the Bay of Bengal; Conducting a study on pros & cons and cost/ benefits of connecting Sri Lanka’s electricity grid with the south Indian grid; Undertaking a study to establish a Maritime Research Centre in Trincomalee for research on maritime environment and eco-systems in the Bay of Bengal and Undertaking a study for promoting people-to people connectivity focusing on pilgrimages (Buddhist and Hindu trails), air travel and ferry connections with India and other forms of connectivity.
Both conferences supported by the government of Japan, were conducted as track 1.5 initiatives with the participation of senior government officials from India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and scholars, subject matter experts, business leaders and representatives of think tanks from a number of participating countries.
Both events focused on the Bay of Bengal region with a view to addressing geo-strategic and geo-economic issues, maritime security concerns and cooperation as well as the possibility of using Trincomalee harbour as a hub for the Bay of Bengal connectivity.
Based on the success achieved and feedback received from participants, Pathfinder Foundation also decided to convene a ‘Indian Ocean Security & Governance Conference’ (IOS&GC) as a contribution to the emerging broad vision of ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ construct.
IOS&GC will be a track 1.5 event with participation of Indian Ocean rim countries and major maritime users of the Indian Ocean and will address two broad areas viz. (i) Maritime Security and (ii) Maritime Governance.
IAG participants represent leading international institutions such as the National Security College of Australian National University, Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, China; Center for Analysis, Planning and Strategy of France; National Institute for Defence Studies, Japan; Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution; Russian International Affairs Council, Institute of South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore; International Institute for Strategic Studies of the UK and the Council on Foreign Relations of the USA.
Meanwhile, meeting of the IAG, which is also supported by the government of Japan, during its March meeting will deliberate on several subjects such as: Traditional maritime security threats; Maritime governance issues in the Indian Ocean; Free and open Indo-Pacific Strategy; and Maritime Infrastructure Development Projects & their impact on the Indian Ocean Region and prepare the framework for the Indian Ocean Security Conference to be held in 2020. (Colombo Gazette)