Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles are set to become full members of the Colombo Security Conclave, a grouping of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives that focuses on maritime security, counter-terrorism and disaster relief.
The three countries were invited to join the grouping during the first meeting of deputy national security advisers of the Colombo Security Conclave that was hosted virtually by Sri Lanka last week. Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles currently have observer status with the grouping, which was earlier known as the NSA Trilateral on Maritime Security and was revived in November last year.
The three observer states are expected to become full members at the next meeting of national security advisers that will be organised in the Maldives later this year, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
The widening of areas of cooperation and expansion of the conclave's membership to Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles indicate growing convergence among Indian Ocean region countries to work together on a common platform and to deepen their engagement under a regional framework, the people said.
Maritime security and countering terrorism and other crimes in the Indian Ocean has emerged as a focus area for India as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy and the doctrine of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
The virtual meeting of the deputy NSAs hosted by Sri Lanka on August 4 focused on the security of regional maritime operations, threat perceptions, prevention of smuggling of contraband, piracy, close trilateral cooperation for further enhancing the response to security concerns and illegal activities on the seas, according to a statement from the Sri Lankan military.
The people cited above said all the members of the conclave expressed a desire to cooperate in maritime safety and security through joint exercises involving navies and coast guard forces. Sri Lanka and Maldives conveyed their expectations and desire of aid from India on maritime and security issues, and the India side assured them of its full assistance, the people added.
In light of recent maritime accidents in the Indian Ocean region that resulted in pollution, such as the incidents involving MV Xpress Pearl, MT New Diamond and MV Wakashio, the members discussed ways to tackle marine pollution. Cooperation in dealing with terrorism and radicalisation was also discussed, the people said.
The conclave was initiated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2011, when he was serving as defence secretary, as a platform for trilateral maritime security cooperation between India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Since the grouping was revived in 2020, a secretariat has been established in Colombo.
During the meeting of the NSAs last year, the grouping decided to expand its overall ambit to maritime and security cooperation, and to focus on countering terrorism and extremism, trans-national crimes such as narcotics, weapons and human trafficking, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and protecting the maritime environment.
Last week's meeting of the deputy national security advisers was chaired by Gen Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka, and it was joined by Indian deputy national security adviser Pankaj Saran and Aishath Nooshin Waheed, secretary in the Maldives NSA's office.
Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles were represented by Lt Gen Waker-ul Zaman, personal staff officer, armed forces division, prime minister's office, Pusmawatee Sohun, permanent secretary, prime minister's office, and Col Michael Rosette, chief of defence forces, respectively.