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
- Top of Form
- 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.
- 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.