Strengthen IOR-ARC: Tharoor

Says body should be made an inclusive organisation to look at security issues


Geetanjali Minhas | February 8, 2012

Former minister of state for external affairs and congress MP from Thiruvanthapuram, Shashi Tharoor has  called for energizing and strengthening of Indian Oceans Rim Countries Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR –ARC) for India’s own strategic power calculations.

The former United Nations diplomat while addressing on the topic “Exploring India-US cooperation: safeguarding prosperity in the Indian Ocean” jointly organized by the Observer Research Foundation and Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu, USA, spoke on the neglect of IOR-ARC. He said that writing off the bureaucratic institution is to give up Indian leadership of a region which is indispensable to the country.

“When IOR-ARC meets, new windows are opened between countries separated by distance as well as politics. Malaysians  talk to Mauritians, Arabs with Australians, South Africans with Sri-Lankans, and Iranians with Indonesians. Indian Ocean serves as both, sea separating them and bridge linking them together,” Tharoor said.

The association brings together 18 countries, small and large, and most unlikely partners across Asia, Africa and Oceania because of sharing of a common body of water- the Indian Ocean in an extraordinary international grouping. According to Tharoor, it can potentially include Europe since the French department of reunion in the Indian Ocean gives Paris observer status in IOR-ARC and the Quai d’Orsay is considering seeking full membership. The Indian Ocean is strategically important as a trade belt, a security prism and its potential for constructive diplomatic action.

Lamenting  the vast and unfulfilled potential of IOR-ARC in the history of global diplomacy Tharoor asked the government to engage and revive it. He said that the body could be the diplomatic arm of a two pronged strategy in making security of the Indian Ocean and political, economic and cultural cooperation two sides of the same coin.

He cautioned against writing off vast possibilities of the semi dormant organization and said, “Indian policy makers have remained focused on immediate challenge of Pakistan and headline grabbing relationships  with the US and China rather than spend time on area they see as complex, inchoate and anything but urgent. I call upon US to recognize the value of this effort to applaud and support it with just enough distance so that its embrace doesn’t prove fatal to the effort.”

Reacting to suggestion that IOR-ARC be made an inclusive organization to realize its full potential and look at security issues, Tharoor said, "Looking at the bigger picture it  should not become a large organization as it was designed that people with compatible vision of the ocean in a forum should get together.” Tharoor further added that it will become far more meaningful as an organization capable of security if it was less inclusive, shapeless and amorphous and had greater potential for getting people together around common strategic vision of our priorities in the region.

Tharoor has served as a vice chairman in the organisation for a brief period.



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