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India-EU Discuss Maritime Cooperation

India and European Union on 1 February discussed maritime cooperation and naval drills. The guiding principle in these dialogues was to focus on the open, rules-based, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.  

These were the highlights of the second India-EU maritime security dialogue. The discussion was held virtually. Post the meeting, both sides issued a joint statement saying that the focus was on policy development in the EU’s strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The sides also discussed the developments in the maritime security environment.  

Participants also discussed India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, maritime cooperation, and regional initiatives undertaken for international maritime security issues.

The joint statement added: “India and the EU discussed cooperation, including in the field of maritime domain awareness, capacity-building, and joint naval activities, following their successful joint naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden in June 2021.”

The statement also added that both India and the EU are committed to a “free, open, inclusive and rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific region” that is underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, democracy, rule of law, freedom of navigation, and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, especially the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

This statement should be interpreted keeping in mind the latest developments in the region. China is engaged in disputes with South-East Asian countries in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has increased military activities in the region. 

The meeting was chaired by Sandeep Arya, joint secretary for disarmament and international security affairs in the Ministry of External Affairs, India, and Joanneke Balfoort, the director for security and defence policy at the European External Action Service from the EU.  

Separately, Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, told an online roundtable discussion that India has sought to strengthen security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific by becoming a net security provider. The event was jointly hosted by organised by Gateway House and the US embassy. 

The Indian official highlighted about Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region of the Indian Navy and other initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, where 35 countries’ navies participate.

India’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region of the Indian Navy in Gurugram is one of the largest maritime facilities for maritime awareness. Several countries have stationed their liaison officers with the centre. Australia, France, Japan, the Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, the UK, and the US have officials posted with the centre. 

The centre monitors the movement of merchant ships and maintains a watch over naval vessels in the region.