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Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the IORA Council of Ministers (COM) meeting was held in Colombo with “Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity” as the central theme.
  • The primary purpose of the COM meeting was to discuss and reinforce the collective identity and cooperation among Indian Ocean rim countries.

More about the news

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About

  • IORA is a regional organization consisting of 23 member countries from Africa, West Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, Australia, and littoral states around the Indian Ocean.
  • The apex body of IORA is the Council of Foreign Ministers, which meets annually, with the leadership rotating among member countries every two years.
  • India holds the position of Vice-Chair, emphasizing its prominent role within the South Asian region.
  • IORA was formed in 1997, initially known as the Indian Ocean Region-Association for Regional Cooperation, with its conceptualization attributed to former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Significance of Indian Ocean Region

  • The Indian Ocean region is home to one-third of the world’s population (2.6 billion people).
  • It plays a critical role in global trade, with 80% of global oil trade, 50% of containerized cargo, and 33% of bulk cargo passing through it.
  • The region generates approximately $1 trillion in goods and services, with intra-IORA trade valued at around $800 billion.
  • It is strategically vital, given its economic importance and geographical location.

IORA as a “safe space” for India

  • IORA offers a platform for India and other regional countries to engage in cooperation without the challenges posed by big-power rivalries.
  • Membership is based on consensus, and the grouping has excluded contentious issues that affect other regional organizations.
  • Pakistan has not been admitted to IORA due to its failure to extend Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.
  • IORA provides a more stable and cooperative environment compared to some other regional forums.

 Focus Areas

  • IORA’s charter outlines the following as priority areas: maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk management, academic, science, and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges, blue economy and gender empowerment.
  • The organization operates a special fund for project grants to members and places a particular emphasis on addressing climate change.
  • It also addresses strategic issues such as maintaining open sea lanes and countering piracy.

India’s Stance at IORA

  • Indian External Affairs Minister stressed the importance of maintaining the Indian Ocean as a “free, open, and inclusive space” that upholds sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on international laws such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.

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