India has been approved as an observer state for Indian Ocean Commission, marking the government’s push for greater salience in the whole Indian Ocean Region (IOR), including what is called the Western or African Indian Ocean. The IOC is also significant for its geographical location, as the islands sit around a ‘key choke point’ in the Indian Ocean - the Mozambique Channel.
What is Indian Ocean Commission? IOC is an inter-governmental association that coordinates maritime governance in the south-western Indian Ocean. It was established in 1984 to protect the interests of the Western Indian Ocean islands. It consists of Madagascar, Comoros, La Réunion (French overseas territory), Mauritius and Seychelles. And the Commission has 5 observers:
·European Union (EU)
·International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF)
Significance of India’s position in IOC:
This move has strategic importance as the Commission is an important regional institution in the Western Indian Ocean. It facilitates collective engagement with the islands in Western Indian Ocean that are becoming strategically significant. It boosts cooperation with France that has strong presence in the Western Indian Ocean and lends depth to 2015 ‘Sagar’ policy of this government.
·The move also strengthens western flank of the Indo-Pacific and is a stepping stone to security cooperation with East Africa.
·The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is home to one of the key chokepoints in the Indian Ocean- the Mozambique Channel and is a strategic sub-theatre of the Indian Ocean linking the Southeastern coast of Africa to the wider Indian Ocean and beyond.
·Comoros sits at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel, Madagascar borders the channel to its west.
·The growing importance of Africa in Indo-Pacific engagements combined with potential natural gas reserves in the Mozambique Channel will only continue to raise the significance of this region in wider maritime security.
·For India, engagements with this region will become critical as the Navy begins to strengthen its presence under its mission based deployments.
(Sources: economictimes.com / thewire.in)