COLOMBO: The increasing activity of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Indo-Pacific region is worrying the United States, said Adm. Harry B.Harris, Commander of the US Pacific Command, at the Galle Naval Dialogue 2016 here on Monday.
Adm.Harris went on to make a strong case for Maritime Domain Awareness and sharing of information among the countries of the Indo-Pacific Region. He stressed the importance of maritime cooperation as most of the earth is covered by the ocean prompting science writer Arthur C. Clarke to say that our planet should be called “ocean” rather than “earth”.
The US admiral called for a rule-based system for navigation in the South China Sea saying that freedom of navigation is the right of all which cannot be withheld by anybody.
The chief of the Indian Navy Adm.Sunil Lamba spoke of the traditional and non-traditional threats to the countries of the Indo-Pacific region and called for the establishment of a Centre for Maritime Cooperation which will coordinate the maritime security activities of the countries of the region .He also called for a Regional Architecture for Maritime Cooperation.
Adm.Lamba gave details of the initiatives taken by India to establish systems for regional maritime cooperation and the many joint exercises it has held with various countries of the region. As result of such cooperation there has not been a single case of piracy in the Arabian Sea since 2014, he pointed out. He said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Neighborhood First” policy helps maritime cooperation in the region.
Non-traditional threats such as those from terrorists, smugglers, human traffickers and pirates, dominate the scene. Traditional threats like maritime disputes between states have been sorted out amicably like the one between India and Bangladesh which was resolved by the two countries accepting the ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 2014.
The Indian Naval chief asked maritime strategists to ponder over the challenges posed by climate change as rising sea levels would have a deleterious impact on coastal regions which tend to be densely populated.
Adm.Lamba urged countries to settle the dispute over the South China Sea to ensure the freedom of navigation within the framework of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Rear Admiral Wang Dazhong ,Assitant to Chief of Staff of the Chinese navy, called for a democratic approach to issues of navigation and said that no country can consider itself to be “omnipotent” or “stay aloof” from issues of maritime security. He called for a system based on consultations with all the stake holders.
Adm. Dazhong said that China is a builder of maritime security because its One Belt One Road policy to promote global development is based on the maintenance of peace and security.
The Sri Lankan navy chief, Vice Admn.Ravindra Wijegunaratne, said that Sri Lanka could play a key role in maritime security in the region as it has developed the technique of tackling terrorists at sea.