Sri Lanka notes increased militarisation of the Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka has taken note of the increased militarisation of the Indian Ocean.

Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage said that there are three trends emerging or have already emerged in the Indian Ocean.

“Number one, the politicisation of the maritime trade; number two, the politicisation of maritime-related infrastructure and number three, increased militarisation of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary emphasized that there needs to be an international rules-based maritime order and enhanced maritime trade connectivity as there is a huge asymmetry in the Indian Ocean Region.

He was speaking at the 2nd Meeting of the IORA Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security (IORA WGMSS) chaired by Sri Lanka, held with the virtual participation of delegates representing the IORA Member States and the IORA Secretariat, the Foreign Ministry said today.

The Foreign Secretary inaugurated the meeting and highlighted that the time is opportune to translate discussions on maritime safety and security issues into action.

He referred to the maritime crime trinity – narcotics, human and weapon trafficking, which is increasing, despite numerous initiatives by the Global Maritime Crimes Programme of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and several other regional and international entities and national governments.

He further emphasized the alarming 40% of fishing that comes from IUU Fishing, in the Indian Ocean, quoting a UN Food and Agriculture Organization Report.

Further, the Foreign Secretary noted the Impact of IUU fishing on the marine environment and the sustainable management of fisheries resources.

He detailed how fishing boats are involved in the increase in trafficking and pollution in the marine environment, recalling the dead zone of 60,000 square kilometres in the Bay of Bengal, and the large garbage patch in the southern part of the Indian Ocean.

“With humans releasing at least 8 million metric tons of plastic every year to the oceans, soon there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, resulting in unhealthy scenarios”.

The Foreign Secretary also expressed confidence that Sri Lanka is looking forward to continue its leadership role in the next tenure as the lead country for the IORA – WGMSS, and that Sri Lanka is also looking forward to playing an effective role to benefit the IORA family, during its tenure as Vice-Chair which is expected to begin around the fourth quarter of 2021, for enhanced regional cooperation within the Indian Ocean Region. (Colombo Gazette)