Sri Lanka to take over as chair of Indian Ocean Rim Association
Posted on October 9th, 2023

BY MEERA SRINIVASAN Courtesy The Hindu business line

16 foreign dignitaries, including External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, expected to attend Council of Ministers meeting on October 11

Several Foreign Ministers, including those of India, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Iran, Malaysia and South Africa, will participate in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Minister’s meeting in Colombo on October 11, 2023, according to the Sri Lankan government, which is preparing to take over as Chair of the regional grouping this week.

The Council of Ministers meeting in Colombo will see the participation of 16 ministers, including the Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, India, Iran, Mauritius, Malaysia and South Africa, as well as ministerial and senior-level participation from Australia, the Comoros, France, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tanzania, Thailand, the UAE, and Yemen (member countries) and from China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Turkey, the UK and the US (dialogue partners), a statement from President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said. 

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry will chair the Council, the highest decision-making body of IORA, taking over from the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, the current Chair, for the next two years. The Council will be preceded by the 25th meeting of the Committee of IORA Senior Officials on October 9 and 10.

Established in 1997 as an intergovernmental organisation of states on the rim of the Indian Ocean, the IORA has members from Africa, West Asia, South Asia, South-East Asia and the Oceania. The Association’s membership has expanded to 23 member states and 11 dialogue partners.

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The regional meet of countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean comes exactly a year after the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the country’s top development aid agency, convened the first ‘China-Indian Ocean Region Forum’ in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

Explained | China’s moves in the Indian Ocean

Significantly, Sri Lanka — which is frequently confronted with competing strategic interests of India and China in the Indian Ocean Region — participated in the forum, along with others from the region, including Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Afghanistan.

The IORA forum also coincides with reports with a possible visit of Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 to Sri Lanka. India and the US have reportedly raised the matter with Sri Lanka, while Foreign Minister Sabry in a recent interview said the government was yet to clear the Chinese vessel’s visit.

Meanwhile, on October 11, India and Sri Lanka will launch a long-pending ferry service connecting Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu with Kankesanthurai in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka this week, as part of the countries’ decision to enhance connectivity.

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