Context: India recently concluded its 4th Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) in the Maldives, held on 3-4 September 2019.

About the conference, 2019

  • This year, the conference was attended by delegates from over 40 states, including the Indian Ocean littoral states. 
  • The theme of IOC 2019 was “Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges”. 

About IOC

  • The IOC was initiated by India Foundation, New Delhi, along with its partner from Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in 2016
  • This initiative aims to recalibrate the regional flux of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Significance: With this yearly conference, India aims to bring together the region on a single platform. The conference incorporates India’s Act East policy unveiled at the 12th ASEAN–Indian Summit in 2014 held in Myanmar. 

Importance of Indian Ocean Region:

  • The Indo-Pacific region is a very important part of India’s Act East policy. 
  • The importance of Chabahar port as the sea access it can provide to Afghanistan through Chabahar port in Iran. 
  • India’s evolving IOR vision that it, “reinvents the Indian Ocean from the ‘Ocean of the South’ to the ‘Ocean of the Centre”. 

Way forward:

  • Strengthen freedom of navigation and the role of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to maintain peace and prosperity in the region. 
  • Intra-regional cooperation through participation and strengthening formal intergovernmental bodies, like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). 
  • All in all, the IOC 2019 served as a good platform for contextualizing India’s strengthening regional role in the Indian Ocean region.