India, Sri Lanka and Maldives will soon sign a trilateral agreement on maritime cooperation to pool resources and share data in the region for better control over the territorial waters, and detect suspicious movements.

Revealing this at the maritime security seminar, Galle Dialogue, here, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives have recently been working on a trilateral agreement for cooperation in carrying out surveillance, anti piracy operations and in curbing illegal activities including maritime pollution. A key aspect of information sharing is Maritime Domain Awareness.

“Meetings have already been held at the Ministerial level and at the technical level, and we hope that the Memorandum of Understanding with regard to the trilateral cooperation between our nations will be signed in the near future. I am confident that multilateral agreements of this nature will be greatly instrumental in curbing many of the issues that the naval powers in the region face,” he said.

Noting that nearly half of the world's containerised cargo crosses the Indian Ocean every year, Mr.Gotabaya wanted better cooperation between the bigger and smaller navies in the region. “Unfortunately, it has to be admitted that there is a degree of mistrust between the major powers in the Indian Ocean region that presently limits the degree to which effective and long lasting multilateral cooperation can be achieved,” he said.

Detailing the Indian efforts in the region, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, R.K.Dhowan pointed out that piracy emanating from Somalia has been confined to an area of 700 nautical miles, largely due to effective patrolling and cooperation between navies. India too had contributed significantly to this effort, and had so far repulsed 40 pirate attacks. In addition, India had also agreements with Royal Thai and Indonesian naval forces to conduct coordinated patrolling in the east, around the region of the Malacca Straits.

India steps up presence in region

Meanwhile, in an effort to ensure better coordination and shorten response timings during a crisis, India has posted a Military Attache (MA) in the Maldives. So far, the MA based in Sri Lanka, was also in charge of Maldives. Captain RS Sunil, who was based at the Eastern Naval Command Headquarters at Visakhapatnam, took charge as MA last week at Male and is the first MA to be based in Maldives. India trains the Maldivian National Defence Forces and its police.

Only five countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China – have diplomatic posts in Maldives. All the other countries either operate out of Colombo or New Delhi.

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