This comes amidst the growing tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The Indian Navy has picked up the increased presence of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

India has joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment (DCOC/JA), as an Observer. This was following the high-level virtual meeting of the Grouping in last week of August.

Highly placed sources have told Financial Express Online “There is no term or duration laid out for being an Observer, and India will work with the DCOC Member States for enhancing maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean Region.”

Though India has been undertaking measures to enhance maritime security and safety in the IOR, joining the DCOC/JA will further enable India’s participation on a coordinated multilateral track, and efforts to enhance maritime security would include assistance through training, capacity building, and information exchange. Also, this will help in providing greater transparency in the maritime domain by assisting in upgrading existing information sharing mechanisms and by connecting them to present a transparent and seamless maritime picture.

“This is not is not related to India’s bilateral relations with Djibouti or access to ports in Djibouti or any other country in the region,” the source clarified.

The very fact that India request for Observer status to the DCOC/JA was accepted by consensus is indicative of her bilateral relations with the DCOC/JA member States along with the work done in enhancing maritime security in the region.”

What Is DCOC/JA?

It is a grouping of 18 member states which are adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East coast of Africa and Island countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Aimed at repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the DCOC was established in January 2009.

The Jeddah Amendment to DCOC came into effect during its meeting in January 2017.

This amendment has helped in enhancing the scope of the DCOC and will include repression of illicit maritime activity, including maritime terrorism and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

India has now joined Japan, Norway, the UK and the US as Observer to the DCOC/JA.

The Secretariat of the DCOC/JA of this organization is supported by the International Maritime Organisation. And the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the EU, INTERPOL and Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) are represented at the meetings.

India has been engaged in bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation with countries of the Indian Ocean region including through the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

In support of the spirit of collective solutions for maritime challenges, India announced, in November 2019, at East Asia Summit the ‘Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative’ — with its seven pillars including maritime ecology; maritime security; marine resources; capacity building and resource sharing; disaster risk reduction and management; science, technology and academic cooperation; and, trade, connectivity and maritime transport.

India has signed white shipping agreements under IFC-IOR with many countries in the IOR and shares maritime information with all the partner countries.

Expert View

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, former spokesperson of the Indian Navy, Capt DK Sharma says, “As we are all aware that the menace of Piracy had shown it’s ugly head in the `Gulf of Aden’ a decade or so back, (precisely in 2008) and since then Indian Navy has been patrolling those piracy infested waters 24X7. India has a big stake in curbing the menace as a big chunk of worlds economy flows through that area viz. The Red Sea and onward into the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.”

“Keeping the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) which traverse through the Indian Ocean Region is the responsibility of the nation-state closer to those lanes and has been entrusted to Indian Navy.,” the former Navy Captain adds.

“In spite of all the efforts by India and various other Navies, the threat has been reduced to a large extent and the cases of Piracy have also reduced to almost negligible. However, the threat remains alive and thus the efforts by the world’s Navies are an ongoing process.”

According to Capt Sharma “On India joining the DCOC/JA as an Observer, I think it’s a logical step as the charter is now beyond Piracy and has included illegal fishing/trawling, human trafficking, Contraband trafficking etc. And, it would facilitate us to keep a check and coordinate/contribute towards the maritime security of IOR.”

“This construct under the aegis of IMO would also cater to environmental issues. Also, the fora would be able to counter the illegal and 7nregulated fishing, maritime terrorism and other illegal activities at sea and we know who are the countries who are active in this,” he concludes.