Sri Lanka keen to ensure freedom of navigation in Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka is keen to ensure freedom of navigation and lines of communication in the Indian Ocean Peace Zone, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha said.

Aryasinha said that the Indian Ocean has today been acknowledged as one of the world’s busiest and most critical trade corridors, carrying two-thirds of global oil shipments and a third of bulk cargo and hosting the most critical Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), directly impacting global trade and economy.

“Sri Lanka as a country central to this region, while protecting its self-interest, is keen to ensure freedom of navigation and lines of communication, which were an essential prerequisite not only to maintaining regional security and stability, but is also crucial for the future prosperity of the region,” the Foreign Secretary said.

The Foreign Ministry today quoted the Foreign Secretary as saying this at the the First Meeting of the IORA Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) Working Group chaired by Sri Lanka and held in Colombo with the participation of 22 foreign delegates representing IORA member countries and representatives of the IORA Secretariat.

The First Meeting of the IORA Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) Working Group had finalized the Work Plan for action.

Inaugurating the meeting Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha recalling Sri Lanka’s role in spearheading the Indian Ocean Peace Zone proposal in 1971, said at the time few recognized the importance of the concept. He said it was pleasing to note that times have changed.

The Colombo meeting chaired by Director General of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, was an intense exercise to agree on a Work Plan on consensus basis of a 50-page document.

The Work Plan for an initial period of 02 years, was based on 03 overarching objectives; building the foundation for a collaborative IORA MSS Framework, establishing an integrated policy approach on MSS, and establishing a Coordinated Regional Vision for MSS in IORA to address existing and emerging issues.

Sri Lanka, as the Coordinating Country would take the lead in assessing progress of the implementation of the MSS Blue Print and the activities agreed upon under the Work Plan on MSS.

Further, Sri Lanka also offered to undertake to support member states in capacity building related to anti-piracy and SAR activities as well as engaging in research connected to specific MSS challenges.

In the long term, considering Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic location and existing cordial relations with all Indian Ocean littoral states, Sri Lanka reiterated its interest in setting up a Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre in southern Sri Lanka to complement similar centres in Madagascar and Singapore. (Colombo Gazette)