Sri Lanka seeks rule-based maritime order in Indian Ocean

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Colombo, Oct 12 (IANS) Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has called for the establishment of a rule-based maritime order in the Indian Ocean before “geopolitical power interplays in the region to convert the Indian Ocean into a centre of tension”, the media reported on Friday.

Delivering the keynote address at the Indian Ocean: Defining Our Future Conference held in capital Colombo, Wickremesinghe said countries needed to take advantage of the “benign strategic atmosphere that exists to create a maritime order in the Indian Ocean that can withstand the challenges that may emerge in the future”.

This could create a more “manageable future,” he was cited as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Officials from countries including China, India and the US participated in the two-day conference which ended on Friday, aimed at exploring the region’s strongest challenges and opportunities.

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The Indian Ocean, which has the involvement of regional powers, littoral states, major maritime users of the Indian Ocean and non-state actors, provided a hotbed for conflicts which could also extend to the sub-surface waters and the air space, Wickremesinghe said.

The Prime Minister also asked the Global Maritime Crime Programme of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help the Sri Lankan government set up an “International Centre of Excellence on the Safety of Undersea Cables” in Colombo.

He further invited all countries present at the conference to send an expert to “augment the intellectual and technical capacity of the centre”.

The conference is expected to lead to a multilateral diplomatic conference to be held in early 2019 in Sri Lanka.

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