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 Ministers 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, Comoros, France, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (member countries) and from China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Turkiye, the United Kingdom and United States of America (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 the IORA, taking over from the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, the current Chair, for the next two years. The Ministers will deliberate on ways to cooperate on six priority areas identified by the IORA, including Trade and Investment, Maritime Safety and Security, Fisheries Management, Disaster Risk Management and Blue Economy. 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, Southeast Asia and the Oceania. The Association’s membership has expanded to 23 member states and 11 dialogue partners.
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 U.S. 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, 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.