India was recently accepted as an observer in the Indian Ocean Commision, getting a seat at the table of the organization that handles maritime governance in the western Indian Ocean.
India’s entry is a consequence of its deepening strategic partnership with France as well as its expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
Significance of this status for India:
India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
The movewould lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.
The move also strengthens western flank of the Indo-Pacific and is a stepping stone to security cooperation with East Africa.
It is an intergovernmental organization created in 1982.
It was institutionalized in 1984 by the Victoria Agreementin Seychelles.
The COI is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations:
Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles.
COI’s principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
The Commission has a Secretariat which is located in Mauritius and headed by a Secretary General.
The Commission has four observers — China, EU, Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).
Political and diplomatic cooperation,
Economic and commercial cooperation
Sustainable development in a globalisation context, cooperation in the field of agriculture, maritime fishing, and the conservation of resources and ecosystems
Strengthening of the regional cultural identity, cooperation in cultural, scientific, technical, educational and judicial fields.
The COI has funded a number of regional and national conservation and alternative livelihoods projects through ReCoMAP, Regional Programme for the Sustainable Management of the Coastal Zones of the Countries of the Indian Ocean (PROGECO in French). This project ended in 2011.
Way ahead for India:
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.