Mar­itime cold war de­vel­op­ing in In­dian Ocean Re­gion: Dr. Jayanath Colom­bage

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - BUSINESS NEWS -

Ad­mi­ral Dr. Jayanath Colom­bage, Di­rec­tor Pathfinder Foun­da­tion said that the In­dian Ocean Re­gion is a re­gion of “strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion, strate­gic al­liances for some ma­jor pow­ers against oth­ers and strate­gic dilemma for smaller and less pow­er­ful states for ma­jor pow­ers”.

Dr. Colom­bage made these com­ments at the 7th In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Com­mon De­vel­op­ment of China and In­dian Ocean Eco­nom­ics, or­ga­nized by the Re­search In­sti­tute for In­dian Ocean Eco­nom­ics (RIIO) at Yunnna Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics (YUFE) held in Kun­ming, China from. De­liv­er­ing the key­note ad­dress ti­tled “Great Power strat­egy and its re­gional role in the In­dian Ocean: From the per­spec­tive of se­cu­rity”, Dr. Colom­bage stressed that the In­dian Ocean Re­gion is presently an area of a de­vel­op­ing ‘mar­itime cold war’ where ma­jor pow­ers con­test for power and in­flu­ence and an area of ‘trust de­fi­ciency’. This sit­u­a­tion has led to an in­creased mil­i­ta­riza­tion and nu­cle­ariza­tion of the In­dian Ocean.

RIIO founded by Yun­nan Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics is an in­de­pen­dent aca­demic in­sti­tute. RIIO un­der the lead­er­ship of Pro­fes­sor Zhu Cuip­ing is com­mit­ted to its in­ter­na­tional, aca­demic and strate­gic pur­poses, com­bin­ing aca­demic re­search with ad­vi­sory ser­vices, and to strate­gic and pol­icy stud­ies of the­o­ries for the fu­ture of In­dian Ocean Re­gion. RIIO at­tach great im­por­tance to ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion with in­sti­tutes in China and abroad in re­lated fields. It or­ga­nizes reg­u­lar in­ter­na­tional sym­po­siums and pub­li­cize re­search achieve­ments and in­for­ma­tion of re­search ac­tiv­i­ties for govern­ments, en­ter­prises and pub­lic through aca­demic the­sis, re­search re­ports, news­let­ters, jour­nals and blue books. RIIO is work­ing to make con­tri­bu­tions to the de­vel­op­ment of China and the In­dian Ocean Re­gion and also pro­vide in­tel­lec­tual sup­port to govern­ments and en­ter­prises.

The 7th in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence was con­ducted with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of aca­demics, sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of think tanks and govern­ments for two days in the ‘Sprint City’ of China Kun­ming. Coun­tries par­tic­i­pated at this con­fer­ence are Aus­tralia, China, In­dia, Sin­ga­pore, Sri Lanka and Myan­mar. Ad­mi­ral Dr. Jayanath Colom­bage of Pathfinder foun­da­tion and Ad­di­tional Sec­re­tary to Sri Lanka Min­istry of For­eign af­fairs, Sumith Nakan­dala rep­re­sented Sri Lanka in the key event.

Ad­mi­ral Colomabge’s pa­per fur­ther stated that; Due to the strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion and mis­trust, and the in­ter­est for power and dom­i­nance shown by ma­jor mar­itime users, it can be seen that there is a ‘Mar­itime Cold War’ tak­ing shape in the In­dian Ocean in the 21st cen­tury, which is also known as ‘Asian Cen­tury’. There are dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives over sta­tus and as­pi­ra­tions, which could de­scend into long term strate­gic ri­valry be­tween In­dia and China. China has fol­lowed the in­ter­na­tional mar­itime order in the In­dian Ocean and has ex­pressed will­ing­ness to work within a com­pre­hen­sive, col­lab­o­ra­tive and co­or­di­nated ar­range­ment to main­tain the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion. In­dia’s ‘Look East’ pol­icy, USA’S ‘Co­op­er­a­tive Strat­egy foe 21st cen­tury sea power’ and Ja­pan’s ‘free and open Indo-pa­cific Strat­egy’, have found a con­ve­nient strate­gic con­ver­gence of this mar­itime trin­ity in the In­dian Ocean. The three ma­jor mar­itime pow­ers have de­vel­oped a ‘strate­gic global part­ner­ship’ in the In­dian Ocean mainly to counter Chi­nese foray in to this ocean. The role of Aus­tralia in this strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion is not still clear. China, pos­si­bly with Pak­istan is on the other side of the spec­trum.

The com­pe­ti­tion for power and in­flu­ence by ma­jor pow­ers has com­pelled other smaller less pow­er­ful coun­tries to cap­i­tal­ize and ex­tract mil­i­tary, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits from both sides. Some coun­tries even at­tempt to play one against the other. But this com­pe­ti­tion can also lead to po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. Fur­ther­more, this geostrate­gic com­pe­ti­tion has led to greater mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the re­gion and there is a need for an ur­gent con­sul­ta­tion process to bring all par­ties to com­mit to the rule based good order and to main­tain a pol­icy of open and free seas. This process could be a re­gional mar­itime se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture or a Code of Prac­tice (COP) for Ma­jor Mar­itime Users.

Then there are the non-state ac­tors who are keen to op­er­ate in the IO, es­pe­cially to carry out their ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties. The threat posed by non­state ac­tors is far greater in the IO than the other oceans and hence special fo­cus is es­sen­tial to deal with them. Col­lab­o­ra­tive and co­op­er­a­tive re­gional se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture is needed to com­bat this threat.

Dur­ing the In­dian Ocean con­fer­ence held in Colombo on 1st Septem­ber 2017, the Prime Min­is­ter of Sri Lanka high­lighted the need for and ‘In­dian Ocean order’, which is not dom­i­nated by one sin­gle state. More­over, he went on to stress that thus In­dian Ocean order should em­pha­size free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight, peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes and de­ci­sion mak­ing through con­sen­sus. The In­dian Ocean can­not be an openo­cean for some states and a close ocean for oth­ers. This is a global com­mon and hence should be ac­ces­si­ble for all states for peace­ful pur­poses. Sri Lanka sit­u­ated in a ge­o­graph­i­cally ad­van­tages po­si­tion and hav­ing a bal­anced and equidis­tanced for­eign pol­icy could play a cat­a­lyst role in mov­ing ahead with a this new ‘In­dian Ocean Order’ for main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity of se­aborne com­merce and free­dom in the In­dian Ocean Re­gion.

Prof. U-tin Aung (Myan­mar), Prof Zhu Cup­ing (China), Prof, Vi­jay Sakuja (In­dia), Prof. Den­nis Rum­ley (Aus­tralia) and Prof. Jayanath Colom­bage

Sumith Nakan­dala- Ad­di­tional Sec­re­tary Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, Prof. Zhu Cuip­ing and Dr. Jayanath Colom­bage

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