India forging a maritime security coalition with five other Indian Ocean nations

India and five of its maritime neighbours are forging a security coalition amid China’s bid to expand its footprints in the Indian Ocean region.

India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will join his counterparts in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh and Seychelles for a meeting in Malé later this year, when the “Colombo Security Conclave” launched a few months back will formally turn into a six-nation coalition to promote security cooperation in the region.

The conclave was launched after a trilateral consultation among India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives were revived with a meeting the National Security Advisor and his counterparts in the two island nations had in Colombo in November 2020. India’s Deputy National Security Advisor Pankaj Saran had another meeting with his counterparts from Sri Lanka and the Maldives in Colombo earlier this week, adding momentum to the initiative to turn it into a formal coalition. The representatives of Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles participated in the meeting on August 4 as ‘observers’, but it was decided to admit the three nations into the conclave as members.

The meeting was chaired by General L H S C Silva, the Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of Army of Sri Lanka, and it ended with the decision that the representatives of Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles would join the next session of the “Colombo Security Conclave” in Malé later this year as members.

The move came amid China’s bid to expand its geo-political influence in the neighbourhood of India and its People’s Liberation Army Navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean region.

The six nations identified four pillars of cooperation under the framework of the “Colombo Security Conclave” – Marine Safety and Security, Terrorism and Radicalization, Trafficking and Organised Crime and Cybersecurity. Saran and his counterparts from the five other nations discussed specific proposals for cooperation, including holding regular interaction, joint exercises, capacity building and training activities. “All participants stressed the vital role of cooperation and coordination in dealing with contemporary security challenges in the region, as well as capacity and capability enhancement among themselves, in keeping with the spirit of regional cooperation,” according to a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Colombo. 

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