Panaji: To forge stronger bilateral ties in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and build consensus among friendly nations, the Indian Navy has offered to create training facilities for friendly nations. The Indian Navy has also floated the idea of deploying a warship which can be crewed by personnel from various neighbouring countries and which will conduct patrols in littoral waters reported TOI.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R Hari Kumar, made the suggestions at the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC), which has naval chiefs from 12 nations participating in the deliberations.

“We are willing to take the lead in developing the training and capacity building pillar. The Indian Navy takes pride in taking ownership for this and to take it forward,” said Kumar, while adding that this initiative is closely aligned with the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) maritime initiative.

The naval chief advocated the need for a flexible and reliable operational framework among the friendly neighbouring nations that can address the common maritime challenges that the nations face.

“We need to have an operational framework that is free, flexible, nimble, responsive and reliable within the ambit of GMC. I suggest that this be based on the common maritime priorities that we have worked out and it could be categorised into functional themes or four pillars— maritime law, information, strategy and protocols, training and capacity building,” said the admiral.

Kumar made the offer in the concluding remarks of the conclave where he said that these four pillars can shape bilateral ties between the participating nations. Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were part of the discussions at the GMC.

One of the possibilities is to have a dedicated ship for maritime patrols that will be crewed by members of all these nations, said Kumar. “We have been thinking of having an Indian Ocean Ship SAGAR offshore patrol vessels for doing patrols in the IOR manned by all the GMC nations with crew from all the countries. This is something that we are examining and of course we will discuss it with you,” said Kumar.

He also recommended a biannual meeting of senior leadership of all the IOR nations over videoconference as well as the creation of Centres of Excellence which can act as a repository of information, knowledge and best management practices relevant to the Indian Ocean.

Kumar described the GMC deliberations as “consultative and collaborative” that will help develop “bespoke regional solutions to regional challenges” that the IOR nations face.

“We have seen very productive discussions over the last two days and have sensed a strong willingness among my counterparts to catapult these conversations into very cogent outcomes,” said Kumar. “As we collaborate and cooperate, there is immense potential to build a collective maritime competence by channelizing and concentrating our efforts.”