Gurgaon Communiqué: 12th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of IORARC, IORARC at 15 – The Next Decade
1. We, the Ministers of Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC), met at Gurgaon, India, for the 12th Meeting of the Council of Ministers on 2nd November 2012. Our meeting was held in an environment marked by warmth, cordiality and openness.
2. Our meeting followed the 14th meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials, the 18th meeting of the IOR Academic Group, the 12th meeting of the Working Group on Trade & Investment and the 18th meeting of the IOR Business Forum. Their recommendations enriched our agenda and supported our work.
3. We thank our senior officials and all those involved in the three forums for their efforts. We also appreciate the hard work put in by the Secretary General and his team and their commitment to furthering the activities of the Association.
4. Our Association turned 15 this year. Set up in 1997 with the primary objective of promoting “sustained growth and balanced development of the region and of its Member States, and create common ground for regional economic co-operation”, IORARC is the apex pan-Indian Ocean multilateral forum with its membership open to all sovereign States of the Indian Ocean rim that adhere to the principles and objectives of its Charter. Over the years, IORARC has helped build and expand understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation, and facilitated the creation of a regional climate conducive to peace and prosperity.
5. We feel that the time has come now for IORARC to take the necessary steps, through an inclusive approach and in conformity with its Charter, to strengthen its institutions and enhance their capabilities, to play its due role as the apex organization in the Indian Ocean region that can effectively deliver on issues of contemporary relevance to its Members.
6. At our last meeting in Bengaluru in November 2011, we had identified six priority areas for our cooperation agenda, maritime security and piracy, disaster risk reduction, trade & investment facilitation, fisheries management, academic and S&T cooperation, and tourism and cultural exchanges. We believe that the outcome of the Bengaluru meeting has helped bring greater focus to our Association’s work. We are pleased to note that a number of useful cooperation initiatives have since been and are being taken in each of these priority areas.
7. The geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean cannot be underestimated. Its stability and well-being is critical for global economic prosperity, and even more so for the countries on its Rim. We are convinced that we can augment our individual capacities to deal with the challenges in a more effective manner by forging enduring partnerships amongst ourselves.
8. Piracy is an increasingly serious concern, posing a threat to maritime commerce and the safety of sea farers, making insurance costlier and adding to the costs faced by shipping in the Indian Ocean Region. Weak governance and instability in parts of the region have facilitated its transformation into transnational organized crime. We welcome the emphasis that our Association has placed on cooperation in maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean and reaffirm the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and safety and security of Sea Lanes of Communication in the Indian Ocean.
9. We note that several useful regional and multilateral initiatives to deliberate on various relevant aspects of the fight against piracy have been taken in the Indian Ocean region, and IORARC should consider ways of engaging with these where feasible and complementing each other’s efforts. We would like the IORARC seminar on maritime security scheduled for 2013 to consider concrete possibilities of cooperative action in this broad area, and its institutionalization as a regional forum for a continuing exchange of views and monitoring of the situation.
10. We believe IORARC offers a useful platform for sharing of information on white shipping, and workshops on developing legislative frameworks and best practices in coastal security and regulation of fishing activities in coastal waters.
11. We underscore the importance of better preparedness to fight natural and manmade disasters in our maritime domain. Cooperation in search and rescue and oil spill response training is a relevant area for IORARC, along with the need to develop cooperation among our agencies concerned to evolve regional disaster management strategies and operational processes.
12. Several Indian Ocean Rim States have witnessed rapid economic growth, and IORARC should consider ways to translate these into increased intra-regional and global trade for our members’ benefit. We see trade facilitation measures as an important dimension in the context of regional trade and investment expansion. In this regard, we welcome the regional workshops on Customs harmonization and on Trade Policy held this year as potentially contributing to ease of business, and direct the Working Group on Trade and Investment to take these initiatives forward.
13. The connectivity provided by the Indian Ocean has played an important part in our shared history and will continue to shape our collective destinies. Enhanced connectivity can have a catalytic effect on economic integration by drastically reducing the costs of doing business, and we must find ways of enhancing regional connectivity and to realize the full potential of economic cooperation in our region.
14. In this context, development of port and harbour infrastructure in the region assumes critical importance. We direct the Working Group on Trade and Investment to explore the potential of cooperation in this sector, including investment in and up gradation of shipping infrastructure and logistic chains in the region. This would act as an economic multiplier, facilitating growth in individual rim economies.
15. IORARC has valuable assets in the form of institutions, such as the Fisheries Support Unit, Maritime Transport Council and Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer that can anchor initiatives in relevant priority areas of our agenda. We would like these to develop into nodal centres of excellence and network with other institutions in their respective fields in the region.
16. We attach high importance to our cooperation in the academic area and S&T. The IOR Academic Group should (continue) pursue well-thought out initiatives of relevance to our region and member states, implement them in a timely manner, and consider possibilities of promoting exchanges of scholars and scientific and technical experts in this context. We express our appreciation on the successful hosting of IORARC programmes such as the meeting of Heads of National Archives and the mobile Exhibition of Archival material, and the workshop on Multidisciplinary Oceanographic Observations for Coastal Zone Management in India and encourage institutions in our region to develop a cooperation agenda for action in these and other relevant subjects.
17. We emphasize the important role that the IORARC Troika can play in coordinating cooperation through regular interaction amongst its members. We have also decided to strengthen the IORARC Secretariat and enhance its capabilities to support the activities of our Association.
18. We welcome the simplified procedures for utilization of the IORARC Special Fund and encourage all members to contribute to and make use of the Special Fund of IORARC for effective implementation of programmes in priority areas of the Association.
19. We thank the Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India for the warm hospitality extended to us and our delegations and making excellent arrangements for hosting the 12th Council of Ministers and other meetings at Gurgaon. We look forward to continuing our engagement and meeting in Australia in 2013.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
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