The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, commonly known as IONS, are a series of biennial meetings among the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region. It provides a forum to increase maritime security cooperation, providing a forum for discussion of regional maritime issues and promote friendly relationships among the member nations.
- Launched in 2008, it is a voluntary initiative, consisting of 32 nations, that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
- It is held biennially. Earlier in November 2018, as many as 24 of the 32 countries that constitute the membership of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) participated in the 10th edition of the INOS seminar held in Kochi, India.
- It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
- It endeavours to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to a common understanding and possibly cooperative solutions on the way ahead. These states are represented by the heads of their navies.
- Under the IONS charter of business adopted in 2014, the forum has working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Information Security and Interoperability (IS&I) and maritime security (anti-piracy).
There are 35 members – navies of the IONS which have been geographically grouped into the following four sub-regions:
- South Asian Littorals: India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles and Sri Lanka
- West Asian Littorals: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen
- East African Littorals: Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania
- South-East Asian and Australian Littorals: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.
- Observer Countries: China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Netherlands, Russia and Spain
Objectives of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium
- It endeavours to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to a common understanding and possibly cooperative solutions on the way ahead.
- The IONS acts as a security construct for the Indian Ocean region and apart from its series of symposiums, it conducts numerous other activities like workshops, essay competitions and lectures to promote its objective.
10th anniversary of IONS
- The theme for the 2018 seminar was 'IONS as a Catalyst for SAGAR'. SAGAR stands for 'Security and Growth for All in the Region'.
- It is in consonance with India's 'Act East' policy and the nation's diplomatic, economic and military outreach in the region.
Significance of the group
- The forum has gradually built up its agenda and has a charter now. It has three main working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), maritime domain awareness and maritime security.
- Most importantly, its chairmanship is on rotation and Iran is chairing it at present. So, everyone has a stake in it. There’s been progress on the HADR front and on the SAR front.
- IONS’ productivity as a non-controversial platform for the management of security issues in the region has been further advanced by the jointly held Search and Rescue naval drill by India and China at the height of the Doklam crisis, under the aegis of the Bangladesh Navy.
India’s three-fold ambitions in the region
- Strengthening and deepening the relations with the Indian Ocean littoral states.
- Establishing its leadership potential and aspirations of being a net-security provider.
- Fulfilling India’s vision of a rules-based and stable maritime order in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
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