Context: India’s recent admission as observer to the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) will put its SAGAR vision to test.


  • In March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited three small but significant Indian Ocean island states — Seychelles, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka
  • During this tour, he unveiled India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean: Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). 

About SAGAR:

  • It is “consultative, democratic and equitable” in nature.
  • It has both distinct and inter-related elements – such as - 
    • deepening economic and security cooperation in the littorals, 
    • enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, 
    • working towards sustainable regional development, 
    • Blue Economy, and promoting collective action to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy, terrorism etc.
  • It therefore has an inclusive vision with politico-economic-security cooperation and respect for international maritime laws at its centre.

About IOC:

  • Founded in 1982, the IOC is an intergovernmental organisation comprising five small-island states in the Western Indian Ocean: the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (a French department), and Seychelles. 
  • The secretariat is based in Mauritius.
  • Following a request from New Delhi, the IOC granted observer status to India on March 6, 2020 at the Commission’s 34th Council of Ministers.
  • It now has 5 observers -  China, India, Malta, the European Union and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Significance of IOC for India:

  • Over the years, the IOC has emerged as an active and trusted regional actor, working in and for the Western Indian Ocean and implementing a range of projects.
  • More recently, the IOC has demonstrated leadership in the maritime security domain. 
    • In 2012, the IOC was one of the four regional organisations to launch the MASE Programme — the European Union-funded programme to promote Maritime Security in Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean. 
    • Under the program two regional centers for promoting maritime security and exchanging critical information are set up in Madagascar {Regional Maritime Information Fusion Center (RMIFC)} and Seychelles {Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC)}.
    • These centres are a response to the limitations that the states in the region face in policing and patrolling their often enormous Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
  • The IOC style of ‘bottom-up regionalism’ has produced a sub-regional view and definition of maritime security problems and local ownership of pathways towards workable solutions, an approach which India can embrace for solving problems.
  • It also served as Chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPSC) in 2018 and 2019 showing its leadership quality wherein the organisation worked and coordinated with major powers to produce tangible results.

How can India contribute ?

  • The IOC’s maritime security activities have a strong foundation, but they require support and buy-in from additional regional actors. 
  • India has already signalled a strong interest in the work of the IOC through its request to be admitted as an observer. 
  • Nearly all littoral states in the Western Indian Ocean need assistance in developing their maritime domain awareness and in building capacity to patrol their EEZs. 
  • All would benefit from national information fusion centres that can link to those of the wider region. 
  • With its observer status, India will be called upon to extend its expertise to the region, put its satellite imagery to the service of the RMIFC, and establish links with its own Information Fusion Centre.
  • Further the massive Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard can drastically augment the capabilities of small IOC countries.

Way Ahead:

  • SAGAR propelled maritime issues to the centre of India’s foreign policy
  • It filled a serious policy vacuum and highlighted the critical interdependent link between maritime security, maritime cooperation and blue economy.
  • As a major stakeholder in the Indian Ocean with maritime security high on the agenda, India will continue to pursue its interests and tackle maritime security challenges at the macro level in the region. 
  • However, as an observer of the IOC, a specific, parallel opportunity to embrace bottom-up regionalism is dependent on how effectively India channelises the “consultative, democratic and equitable” nature of SAGAR.


Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia:

  • It is commonly abbreviated as CGPCS, is an international governance mechanism established in New York on January 14, 2009 to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among states and organizations to suppress Somali piracy.
  • The CGPCS was established in response to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008), later recalled and replaced with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1918 (2010). 
  • To date, more than 60 countries and international organizations have become part of this forum, all of which are working towards the prevention of piracy off the Somali coast.


Exclusive Economic Zone:

  • It is a sea zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
  • It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast. 
  • In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf. 
  • The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit. 
  • The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a "sovereign right" which refers to the coastal state's rights below the surface of the sea.
  • The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters.

Source; Wikipedia



Image Source: The Hindu