Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Lanka for Indian Ocean Conference

The security concerns are not fully addressed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Wickremesinghe told an global forum on the Indian Ocean in Colombo. “We already have Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan”.

“In this regard, as I mentioned earlier Sri Lanka will soon commence exploratory discussions on convening a meeting to deliberate on a stable legal order on freedom of navigation and over flight in the Indian Ocean”.

India on Thursday called for the development of a security architecture in the Indian Ocean region that strengthened cooperation among all littoral states. There were beach sands and offshore placer deposits rich in minerals. The Indian Ocean however had several choke points.

The IOC is a Track 1.5 event organized by the India Foundation based in New Delhi, in collaboration with the National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS) in Colombo and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), to discuss cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region. Chinese ships and submarines have appeared more frequently in the Indian Ocean in recent years. “We consider it an imperative that those who live in this region bear the primary responsibility for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean”, she said, amid increasing forays by the Chinese Navy in the region.

“That unhindered lawful maritime commerce are conducted in keeping with current worldwide laws and regulations”.

“The fact that three-quarters of this traffic is headed for destinations beyond the region underlines the fact that the Indian Ocean is of vital importance, well beyond the shores of the littoral states”, she said. It is of utmost importance that these waters remain safe and secure.

“The conference will be all about what is going to happen in the Indian Ocean region in the future”.

Sri Lanka is now negotiating the Economic and Technological Cooperation agreement with India, and an FTA with China.

“The government has taken up the fishermen issues at the highest level, including by the Prime Minister, with the Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister during his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2017”.

“We will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries”.

He said Indian Ocean nations must also protectionist tariffs on their people to help them prosper and boost trade freedoms.

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