India is ready to supply various types of weapons systems to Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday.

Addressing the Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave here, he advocated for uninterrupted access to the open seas and abiding by international laws for stability and security in the region.

“India is ready to supply various types of weapons systems to IOR countries. In consonance with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SAGAR, Neighbourhood First and Act East policy, India has adopted a cooperative approach through capacity-building assistance with partner countries. This was reflected in the supply of Indian made ships, maritime aircraft and setting-up of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems,” Singh said.

The Defence Minister pointed out that the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world highlighted the need to ensure peace in the IOR region.

Referring to India’s growth in the aerospace and defence sector and its emergence as a global R&D hub with one of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems, the Defence Minister said IOR countries can leverage these sectors for mutual benefit.

He said the recent order from the Indian Air Force to buy 83 Advanced Light Helicopters Mk-1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a milestone in India’s indigenisation of defence manufacturing capabilities.

Singh also pointed out that India’s approach and vision to tackle global challenges was highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dynamic five ‘S’ vision – Samman (respect), Samvaad (dialogue), Sahyog (cooperation), Shanti (peace) and Samriddhi (prosperity).

“Indian Ocean Region acts as a constant source of resources, particularly in sectors of fisheries, aquaculture, ocean energy, sea-bed mining and minerals. It provides tremendous economic opportunities to develop marine tourism and shipping activities,” he added.

The Defence Minister said that the Indian Ocean is a shared asset and a lifeline to international trade and transport due to its control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments.

Singh emphasised the IOR conclave should focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism and intercultural exchanges in line with ‘SAGAR’ – Security and Growth for All in the Region, the theme of Indian Ocean Policy outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

“The deployment of ships by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast guard for maritime security and anti-piracy operations had been successful in minimising threats to commercial shipping,” he said.

The Defence Minister identified the capacity building, capability enhancement, cooperative engagements and collaborative efforts as the four pillars of Naval Foreign Cooperation that carry the significance in transforming India’s reach and capabilities, in the near and far regions.

“Due to its geo-strategic location in Indian Ocean Region, maritime character, historical and cultural ties with littoral states, India considers it important to keep the maritime neighbourhood safe and secure, through unity and togetherness,” added Singh.

He said IOR faces a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs/people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search & Rescue (SAR) which can be met through maritime co-operation.

The Defence Minister highlighted that Indian Navy successfully evacuated about 4,000 Indian nationals from the region under Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic. “These missions would not have been a success without able assistance from our maritime neighbours,” he underlined. (ANI)