Gurgaon: Advocating deeper economic ties in the Indian Ocean region and emphasis on maritime security, India on Friday pitched for more robust "cooperative regionalism" and said the geo-strategic importance of the area cannot be underestimated.

"As focus of global economic growth shifts to Asia, it will occupy even greater salience in our strategic perspective," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in his address at the Ministerial Meeting of the 20-nation Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) here.

"We envision IOR-ARC as a regional body that can respond effectively to this need and enhance our individual and collective capacities to deal with contemporary challenges facing our common maritime domain," he said on the concluding day of the five-day conference.

Khurshid stressed that IOR-ARC should be strengthened to enable it to rise to expectations of the region.

The grouping was set up in 1997 with the primary objective of promoting sustained growth and balanced development of the region and of its member states.

"IOR-ARC has helped promote understanding and cooperation amongst our countries over these years, yet immense untapped potential remains," the minister said. The theme for on Friday's deliberations is "IOR-ARC at 15 –- the Next Decade".

"In our view, the objective of this exercise should be to lay down a roadmap and agenda for our Association for the coming years that will eventually establish IOR-ARC as an apex organization for the Indian Ocean region," Khurshid said.

He pointed out that the region is characterised by great diversities in size, population and levels of development.

"A prospective roadmap for our Association must therefore be inclusive, taking IOR-ARC forward at a pace acceptable to all.

"Secondly, in facilitating the creation of a regional climate conducive to peace and prosperity, IOR-ARC should aim at opening as many channels of communication and cooperation amongst its membership as feasible," the minister said.


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