Sri Lanka hosted the fourth National Security Adviser (NSA)-level Trilateral meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation with India and the Maldives. The inaugural trilateral meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation was held in the year 2011 as an initiative of the former Secretary, Ministry of Defence and the current Sri Lankan President His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A series of trilateral meetings had been convened successfully but the last meeting was held over 6 years ago in New Delhi, India in March 2014.
Realising the topical necessity of the continuation of NSA-Level meeting, under the guidance of the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, the 4th National Security Adviser Level Trilateral Meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation was hosted in Colombo on Nov 28, 2020.
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence issued a joint statement stating that, the three participating countries while recognising the significance of the forum for promoting meaningful cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region on common issues pertaining to maritime security, examined the entire range of strategic maritime threats and challenges posed by the evolving Indian Ocean security environment of the twenty-first century.
Shri Ajit Doval, KC India’s National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister and Hon. Uza Mariya Ahmed Didi, Minister of Defence and National Security of the Republic of Maldives arrived in Colombo at the invitation of the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne. Since the functions of a strategic outpost in the Indian Ocean could be achieved by new facilities in the Seychelles and Mauritius, both these countries and Bangladesh were invited to represent the meeting virtually as Observer States.
The high-level trilateral meeting was designed to initiate collective action on maritime security including maritime domain awareness, legal regimes, train in search and rescue, maritime pollution response, information sharing, curbing piracy drugs, arms and contraband trafficking in the Indian Ocean region.
Three participating countries paid concerns into the current Maritime Security Environment in the region and discussed mutual cooperation in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, joint exercises, capacity building, maritime and underwater heritage and oil spill response.
While exchanging their respective views on common security threats, all three countries agreed to broad base cooperation by expanding the scope to improve intelligence sharing and include issues such as terrorism, radicalisation, extremism, illegal drugs, weapons and human trafficking, money laundering, cyber security and effect of climate change on maritime environment.
The Heads of Delegations agreed to meet regularly to share, discuss and ensure timely implementation of decisions taken at the meeting and decided to hold Deputy NSA level working group meetings biannually for cooperation at operational level. The participants further agreed that expanding the membership of the forum to include more like minded countries in the region will be beneficial and will ensure cooperation on maritime and security issues to be more effective and meaningful; under a notion of the Secretary, Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka for enhanced regional peace and security.
Synergy is a key in regional maritime cooperation among Indian Ocean states and as a result a few suggestions were presented at the meeting to assist in developing maritime security cooperation, which included improvement of personnel capabilities, enhancement and maintenance of maritime information management system, utilization of existing technology and, cooperation on education and training among the three countries.
While agreeing that the Maritime security cooperation must safeguard the Indian Ocean’s maritime ecosystem, the three participants agreed to rename the meeting as ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ in future occurrences.
Signing of respective correspondence agreed upon and, the exchange of mementos among the NSA-level defence experts of three countries, were also held culminating the fruitful two day programme.