India looks to deploy naval liaisons at Madagascar, Abu Dhabi for information exchange

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After joining the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) as Observer in March, India is looking to post Navy Liaison Officers at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar and also at the European maritime surveillance initiative in the Strait of Hormuz for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

“We are working closely with France who is a pre-eminent member of IOC to post a Naval LO at the RMIFC in Madagascar. We are also working on posting a Naval LO at the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) in Abu Dhabi,” a defence source told The Hindu. “This will be in the overall realm of improving linkages of the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram with other IFCs and become the repository for all maritime data in the IOR,” the source said. The LOs are expected to be posted in the next few months.

The RMFIC functions under the aegis of the IOC of which India became an Observer in March 2020 along with Japan and the United Nations. The IOC is a regional forum in the southwest Indian Ocean, comprising five nations — Comoros, France (Reunion), Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. China and the European Union (EU) have been Observers in the IOC since 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The Navy LO is expected to be posted at EMASOH by July and at the RMIFC by September or October, the source said. India has an LO at the IFC in Singapore for over four years now.

The EMASOH headquarters is composed of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and French officers and based at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi. The aim is “to monitor maritime activity and guarantee freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.” On February 5, the initiative was declared operational by the French Ministry of Armed Forces.

The Navy set up the IFC-IOR in December 2018 within the premises of the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram to track maritime movements in the region. France became the first country to deploy a Liaison Officer at the IFC-IOR followed by the U.S. and several other countries including Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom have announced their intention to post LOs. Currently, infrastructure is being built to house the foreign officers. Pre-fabricated structures are being built and are expected to be ready by the end of the year, a second source said.

Of late, India has signed a series of white shipping agreements, Logistics Support Agreements (LSA) and maritime cooperation agreements with several countries. For instance, at the virtual summit, India and Australia announced a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in which they agreed to “deepen navy-to-navy cooperation and strengthen MDA in the Indo-Pacific region through enhanced exchange of information”.

As reported by The Hindu in October last, the IFC-IOR is coordinating with similar centres across the globe. These include Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Centre (VRMTC), Maritime Security Centre- Horn of Africa(MSCHOA), Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP), Information Fusion Centre-Singapore (IFC-SG), and International Maritime Bureau - Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC).

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 4:31:03 PM |

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