The maritime security has emerged as an important component for countries all over the world. There are rising concerns about the safety as well as security with the conflicts over maritime borders, risk of accidents as well as the menace of piracy. India, Sri Lanka and Maldives are neighbours with stakes in the region.
On 14-15th July, the high rank officials from India, Sri Lanka and Maldives held a virtual trilateral tabletop exercise (TTX-2021) to engage in a procedures to work on best practices to curtail the transnational crime in the maritime region. One of the aims was to cooperate and develop a system that strengthens the system of assistance in maritime search and rescue.
All the three countries have extensive interests in the Indian Ocean and have voiced their concerns about the growing crime in terms of the illegal narcotics trade as well as pirates. Another issue recently faced was when the chemical laden vessel MV X- Press Pearl caught fire and the Indian Coast Guard actively worked with the Sri Lankan authorities to bring the situation under control. The Operation called the Sagar Aaraksha II involved strenuous exercises on part of both the countries. The attempts to all the ship away failed and it had to be sunk carrying huge amounts of chemicals. Both these incidents brought into focus the need to have a proper mechanism in place to make sure that timely steps could be taken to take the necessary steps in case of accidents to save lives and also to prevent environmental pollution.
Maldives too in the past faced similar circumstances when the vessel Nautilus One caught fire and sank in January 2021. There have been many such instances and that increased the awareness of countries to work on building up mechanisms that could accelerate the process of damage control and help in reducing the losses as much as possible. The exercises addresses the anti-narcotics and maritime search and rescue system. It was coordinated by the Maritime Warfare Centre, Mumbai.
The twin goals for this exercise were strengthening of the maritime cooperation and boosting of security environment in the Indian Ocean Region. RAdm Gurcharan Singh, CSO, Ops gave the welcome address and the Western Naval Command was the lead agency. The exercise was a follow up of the agreement between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives at the fourth National Security Adviser talks held in Colombo in November 2020.
After the accident with the MV X-Press Pearl vessel, the Indian Navy had helped in surveying the sea route safety around the Colombo port. India and Maldives too share a close maritime relationship for several years now.
The press release issued stated that this exercise was an extension of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy and the vision of “Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR)”. India, Sri Lanka and Maldives have common interests in the Indian Ocean. Such collaborations among them will benefit all in times of crisis since the geographical proximity will be a major factors in handling testing situations at all times.