Jakarta Accord, 2017

“Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean” with this theme the recent Summit of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was held at Jakarta marked the 20th anniversary of the association which brings together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, to promote co-operation and interaction among them. This summit was the first of its kind as earlier there were only meetings of IORA’s member countries held at Ministerial level, but this time leader of the countries met to discuss with the vision to strengthen the cooperation for peaceful and prosperous countries in the Indian ocean which will be defined by the “Jakarta Accord”.  Also, the summit resulted with an agreement to counter the terrorism in the countries located in this region.

What is IORA?

Trade is very important for the development of any country and is mainly done in various ways out of which the water route is significant and for India, it is the Indian Ocean which solves the purpose. After overlooking the Indian Ocean for many decades India realized the enormous potential  of the Indian Ocean and along with Australia, South Africa and Mauritius in the year 1997, established the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORA-ARC).

The association projected an ambitious vision the aim of which  was to enhance economic co-operation by invigorating intra-regional trade and investment, enhancing competitive advantages in commodities, creating a network among Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries. IORA is based on the principles of open Regionalism to strengthen Economic Cooperation particularly Trade Facilitation and Investment, as well as promotion and social development of the region.

Members of the IORA embrace ventures for economic co-operation identifying with facilitation of trade and foreign investment, tourism, development of natural people and specialist organizations on a non-oppressive premise; and the improvement of infrastructure and Human Resources.

The Jakarta Summit 2017 and its outcomes

The game changer summit of Jakarta for the first time in twenty years of the Association brought together leaders of the member countries under one roof to discuss the ways to strengthen the regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean as well as to promote peace and stability in the region.

The Summit laid emphasis on connectivity, open maritime trade and rights of navigation as well as terrorism in the region and came up with documents to evolve strategies to meet conventional and non-conventional threats to the aims and objectives of the association. Amongst the documents which were signed at the summit was the IORA Concord which is a strategic document which sets the path to toughen the regional collaboration in the Indian Ocean Rim and promote the IORA as a regional cooperation. The Summit also made the members to commit to deepen their cooperation with the Dialogue Partners and take note of the outcomes of the first post-CSO dialogue for which the Dialogue Partners have been constructively engaged at senior officials’ level in identifying areas of cooperation as well as exploring joint projects, programmes, and capacity building activities of mutual interest.

The Summit also resulted in boosting exports for the members bordering the Indian Ocean by evolving a regional mechanism for cooperation on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) – or duty-free enclaves with tax holidays to boost exports. This will further result in more and more countries implementing this for their industrialization process, especially to attracting foreign direct investments.

IORA and India

India took the diplomatic initiative in the year 1997 to revive the dilapidated idea of Indian Ocean regionalism. This move suggested that India’s habit of overlooking the Indian Ocean was finally giving way to a recognition of the nation’s maritime imperative. India’s increasing sea trade in the Indian Ocean compelled it to pay greater attention to secure a sustainable order in the vast ocean of opportunities

As India began to reinvest in Indian Ocean regionalism, the association identified some priority areas such as maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk management, and promotion of tourism. Also, the turbulence in the littoral, especially in the Gulf, forces of violent extremism that bring anarchy and instability and India along with the big four countries which started the association being the torch bearer of the association has to take certain bold steps to counter such terrorism. It is largely up to India to shape the future of Indian Ocean regionalism, as the largest economy and biggest military.

Conclusion

The most suitable multilateral vehicle for the Indian Ocean region is IORA. If IORA is to actually achieve some outcomes of this summit in a short time as possible, it has to focus apart from just the four “super priority” areas, with an emphasis on maritime security as a means of laying the foundation for achieving the others.

The Jakarta Accord has paved a path for the future of the IORA and thanks to Indonesia which for the first time has hosted the summit in twenty years of the association and has shown that future of IORA is in good hands.

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