The Trilateral Maritime Security Co-operation Initiative was launched by India, Sri Lanka and Maldives in 2011 at Male. This was a welcome initiative involving the three littoral states to enhance maritime security in the neighbourhood. There were two subsequent meetings in 2013 and 2014. There has, however, been no meeting under this mechanism for over two years and a fresh impetus for this initiative seems to be lacking.
There is an urgent need to revitalise and expand this construct given the growing maritime security challenges in the area. The expansion of Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) should also be considered as another driver for India to further strengthen this initiative at an early date in order to safe-guard and further consolidate strategic influence in the extended neighbourhood.
Roadmap for Maritime Security Cooperation under Trilateral Maritime Cooperation are as follows: -
- Initiatives to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) through measures such as sharing of Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) data, etc.
- Training and capacity building initiatives in areas of MDA, Search and Rescue (SAR), Oil Pollution response, etc.
- Joint activities including trilateral exercises, maintaining lines of communication on illegal maritime activities, formulation of marine oil pollution response contingency plan, and cooperation in legal and policy issues related to piracy.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Mauritius and Seychelles in 2015 was important from the stand point of maritime security of the region. His exposition of the mantra of SAGAR – Security and Growth for all in the Region – during the visit and the agreements in respect of Assumption and Agalega Islands were particularly important. In addition, the coastal radar chain commissioning and announcement of the provision of the second Dornier aircraft for Seychelles and joint commissioning of the Barracuda in Mauritius were also significant. During the visit, the Prime Minister had also laid out a five-point framework for India’s maritime engagement in the IOR. He also expressed the hope that Mauritius and Seychelles would also join the ongoing Trilateral Maritime Security Cooperation Initiative between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Maritime security challenges in the region continue to be an issue of concern and this effective regional mechanism needs to be strengthened to deal effectively with them. It is time that the mechanism is revived.