Naval chiefs from around 15 Indian Ocean nations, accompanied by senior government officials, will meet in Kochi to participate in a three-day event being organized to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
The event, which is being hosted by the Indian Navy, will be held from November 12-14 and features programmes, including an international seminar, a ship-sailing regatta and cultural events.
Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will inaugurate the event in the presence of chief of naval staff admiral Sunil Lamba and also chief of navies from other countries. On November 14, a regatta of sail training ships would also be flagged off from the naval base in Kochi.
Over the years, IONS has become a significant regional maritime security initiative that brings together navies of littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region. The first such meet was held in 2008 in New Delhi and the then chief of the naval staff was made the chairman of the forum for the period 2008-2010. Since then, the chairmanship of IONS has been held by navies of the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh and Iran. Today, IONS has 24 members and 8 observer nations that are geographically grouped into four sub-regions, namely South-Asian, West Asian, East African and South East Asian & Australian Littorals.
The IONS Working Groups (IWGs) have worked together on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as information sharing and interoperability. In 2017, international multilateral maritime search and rescue exercise, hosted by Bangladesh, marked the first operational exercise under IONS charter and is likely to be followed up by anti-piracy exercise in mid-2019 by Iran.
The event holds significance for India as it underlines the Indian Navy’s status as a net security provider in the region and a force that engages in cooperative mechanisms to support regional growth.