A Community of Indian Ocean Nations on anvil

via HK Correspondent published on January 31, 2006

CHENNAI: Indian citizens can go and work in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Oman, UAE and citizens from these places can make to India or any other countries in the Indian Ocean Rim freely. Farmers sending their agricultural products to the countries in the Indian Ocean Rim without any hassles! Sound like a pipe dream? If the projects and proposals of the Indian Ocean Studies and Research Group, a Chennai based think tank, materializes, there will be an Indian Ocean Union, on the lines of European Union, with a common currency, a common central bank, and where men and materials can move freely across the borders without any barriers.


The IOSRG has asked the union government to set up an Indian Ocean Studies and Research Institute (IOSRI) as a prelude to the formation of the Indian Ocean Union. In a detailed letter sent to the Union Human Resources Minister Mr Arjun Singh, the IOSRG said that the proposed institute would network with research scholars and institutions in the Indian Ocean region in areas of security, maritime trade, cultural, historical, political, economic relations   including the setting up of an Indian Ocean Free Trade Zone.


The IOSRG said in the letter that their proposal is in tune with the proposed Maritime Studies Institute to be set up in Chennai. “The Institute will function in collaboration with the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras, which is considering the setting up of a Centre for Indian Ocean Studies (CIOS) for furthering the cause of close association with the Indian Ocean Rim States,” says the letter.


Speaking to Haindava Keralam, Dr S Kalyanaraman, an associate of the IOSRG, said the countries lying along the rim of Indian Ocean were culturally and commercially linked to each other. “Countries in South Asian and South East Asia had very strong cultural and commercial bonds dating back to thousands of years. The colonial powers from Europe disrupted and destroyed this links to further their commercial interests,” said Dr Kalyanaraman.           


The IOSRG hopes to revive and strengthen the age old relations between these nations as a prelude to the formation of a community of Indian Ocean nations on the lines of European Union.


The IOSRG letter points out that there are 50 states bordering the Indian Ocean Rim. “This is a geo-physical reality of 63,000 km of which the Indian coastline alone accounts 7,500 km. The December 26 tsunami attack caused maximum devastation in this stretch,” pointed out Mr Venugopalan, Convenor, IOSRG.


The area stretching from Cape Of Good Hope through Madagascar, Persian Gulf, Straits of Mannar, Straits of Malacca, and upto the Tasmania coastline constitute the Indian Ocean Rim. “ We in IOSRG envisage free movement  of men and materials in the Indian Ocean Community,” said Mr Venugopalan.


Mr. Venugopalan, a former officer belonging to the Indian Railway Account Service, has worked out all the nuances associated with the economic potential of the Indian Ocean Free Trade Zone. “ The countries belonging to the Union can cooperate in combating sea piracy. We can have a network of coast-guards along the Rim in the context of strategic and geo-political security of the Indian Ocean Region and a number of other areas,” pointed out Mr Venugopalan.

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