India Joins as Observer in Indian Ocean Commission


New Delhi: In a boost to its position in the Indo-Pacific vision, India has joined as an observer of the Indian Ocean Commission — the inter-governmental organisation that coordinates maritime governance in the south-western Indian Ocean.

This move has strategic importance as the Commission is an important regional institution in the Western Indian Ocean. It facilitates collective engagement with the islands in Western Indian Ocean that are becoming strategically significant. It boosts cooperation with France that has strong presence in the Western Indian Ocean and lends depth to India’s SAGAR policy of 2015 envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It also strengthens western flank of the Indo-Pacific and is a stepping stone to security cooperation with East Africa.

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is a strategic sub-theatre of the Indian Ocean linking the Southeastern coast of Africa to the wider Indian Ocean and beyond. It is home to one of the key chokepoints in the Indian Ocean-the Mozambique Channel.

While Comoros sits at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel, Madagascar borders the channel to its west. While the channel lost its significance post the opening of the Suez Canal, the recent hostilities near the Strait of Hormuz brought the channel back into focus as the original route for bigger commercial vessels (especially for oil tankers).

Additionally, the growing importance of Africa in Indo-Pacific engagements combined with potential natural gas reserves in the Mozambique Channel will only continue to raise the significance of this region in wider maritime security. Keeping in mind the importance of geography for maritime power projection and naval dominance, there is little doubt about the rising significance of the islands in a new geo-political environment in the Indian Ocean.

For India, engagements with this region will become critical as the Navy begins to strengthen its presence under its mission based deployments. Engagements with the region, especially with the islands- given their geo-strategic location- could become key in supporting Indian naval presence as well as furthering Delhi’s Indian Ocean engagement.