The first Deputy National Security Adviser level Meeting of the Colombo Security Conclave was hosted virtually on earlier this week by Sri Lanka under the Chairmanship of General LHSC Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of Army of Sri Lanka and the participation of Mr. Pankaj Saran, Deputy National Security Adviser of India and Ms. Aishath Nooshin Waheed, Secretary, National Security Adviser’s Office at the President’s Office of Malpes.Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles participated as Observers and were represented by Lt. Gen. Waker Uz Zaman, Principal Staff Officer to Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh Army, Mrs. Pusmawatee Sohun, Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Mauritius, and Colonel Micheal Rosette, Chief of Defence Forces, Seychelles People’s Force.
The decision to establish Colombo Security Conclave was taken in November 2020 at the NSA-level meeting of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to forge closer cooperation on maritime and security matters among the three Indian Ocean countries. The Deputy NSA level meeting was a follow up to the decisions taken at the NSA level meeting under the expanded format of the Colombo Security Conclave.The Deputy NSA level meeting identified four pillars of cooperation under the Colombo Security Conclave, namely, Marine Safety and Security, Terrorism and Radicalization, Trafficking and Organised Crime and Cyber security. It discussed specific proposals for cooperation and each of these pillars including holding regular interaction, joint exercises, capacity building and training activities. All participants stressed the vital role of cooperation and coordination in dealing with contemporary security challenges in the region, as well as capacity and capability enhancement among themselves, in keeping with the spirit of regional cooperation.The meeting was marked by convergence of views on common security threats and was held in a warm, positive and forward looking manner.
This was the first meeting at DNSA level after the NSA Trilateral on Maritime Security was revived in November 2020 in Colombo. This grouping was later renamed ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ and a Secretariat has also been established in Colombo. This trilateral cooperation framework was initially established in 2011.Keeping in mind the importance of widening cooperation in the regional context, it was decided at the NSA level meeting in Colombo to expand the overall ambit of work from maritime security to maritime and security cooperation. Focus has accordingly expanded to include spheres such as countering terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crimes including narcotics, weapons and human trafficking, HADR, protection of maritime environment, capacity building etc. In the meeting, all members expressed keen desire to cooperate in the areas of maritime safety and security through joint exercises of navies and Coast Guards. Both Sri Lanka and Maldives expressed expectations and desire of assistance from India on maritime and security issues and India assured its full assistance.
In light of recent pollution accidents such as MV Xpress Pearl, MT New Diamond and MV Wakashio in the Indian ocean region, all members held focussed discussion on combatingmarine pollution. The importance of cooperation in dealing with terrorism and radicalisation was also discussed. Making significant progress from earlier meetings, the Members elaborated proposals of implementation of these spheres of cooperation and identified pillars of engagement and modalities of execution.
The three Observer states have been invited to join the conclave as full members at the next NSA level meeting which is expected to be organized later this year in Maldives.The widening of thematic areas of cooperation and expansion of membership to Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles indicate growing convergence among the Indian Ocean Region countries to work together in a common platform and to deepen the spheres of engagement under a regional framework. The coming together of the 6 Indian Ocean region countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood on a common maritime and security platform is significant in wider global context as well.