Sri Lanka and Maldives expressed expectations and desire of assistance from India on maritime and security issues

Under the format of Colombo Security Conclave, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives held the first Deputy Security Adviser level meeting in a virtual format on August 4. Hosted by Sri Lanka, the meeting was attended by Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles as observers.

The Deputy NSAs of these countries identified four pillars of cooperation under the Colombo Security Conclave, namely: Marine Safety and Security, Terrorism and Radicalization, Trafficking and Organised Crime and Cyber security.

They discussed specific proposals for cooperation and each of these pillars including holding regular interaction, joint exercises, capacity building and training activities.

All participants stressed the vital role of cooperation and coordination in dealing with contemporary security challenges in the region, as well as capacity and capability enhancement among themselves, in keeping with the spirit of regional cooperation.

This was the first meeting at Deputy NSA level after the NSA Trilateral on Maritime Security was revived in November 2020 in Colombo. This grouping was later renamed ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ and a Secretariat has also been established in Colombo. This trilateral cooperation framework was initially established in 2011.

Keeping in mind the importance of widening cooperation in the regional context, it was decided at the NSA level meeting in Colombo to expand the overall ambit of work from maritime security to maritime and security cooperation. Focus has accordingly expanded to include spheres such as countering terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crimes including narcotics, weapons and human trafficking, HADR, protection of maritime environment and capacity building.

In the meeting, all members expressed keen desire to cooperate in the areas of maritime safety and security through joint exercises of navies and Coast Guards.

Both Sri Lanka and Maldives expressed expectations and desire of assistance from India on maritime and security issues and India assured its full assistance.

In light of recent pollution accidents such as MV Xpress Pearl, MT New Diamond and MV Wakashio in the Indian Ocean Region, all members held focussed discussion on combating marine pollution.

The importance of cooperation in dealing with terrorism and radicalisation was also discussed.

Making significant progress from earlier meetings, the members elaborated proposals of implementation of these spheres of cooperation and identified pillars of engagement and modalities of execution.

The three Observer states—Bangladesh, Seychelles and Mauritius--have been invited to join the conclave as full members at the next NSA level meeting which is expected to be organized later this year in Maldives.

The widening of thematic areas of cooperation and expansion of membership to Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles indicate growing convergence among the Indian Ocean Region countries to work together in a common platform and to deepen the spheres of engagement under a regional framework.

The coming together of the 6 Indian Ocean region countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood on a common maritime and security platform is significant in a wider global context as well.

At the meet, while Sri Lanka was led by Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of Army General LHSC Silva, India was represented by Deputy NSA Pankaj Saran, Maldives was led by Secretary in National Security Adviser’s office Aishath Nooshin Waheed, Bangladesh was represented by Principal Staff Officer to Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh Army Lt Gen Waker Uz Zaman, Mauritius was led by Permanent Secretary in Prime Minister’s Office Pusmawatee Sohun and Seychelles was represented by Chief of Defence Forces Colonel Micheal Rosette.