The Colombo Security Conclave is a regional security grouping initially formed in 2011 as a trilateral Indian Ocean maritime security grouping of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
It was revived again in 2021 and the Conclave has since expanded both its membership as well as its scope.
The CSC is moving towards expansion and greater institutionalization. This has been evident from the most recent iteration of the grouping where Mauritius was welcomed as the fourth member.
CSC is further projected to expand with the inclusion of Seychelles and Bangladesh in its future iterations.
Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) now includes:
To create a platform for closer cooperation in maritime security and address the challenges such as narco-trafficking, human trafficking, piracy, terrorism and extremism.
Pillars of Cooperation:
Initially, there were four areas of cooperation mentioned in the conclave.
Combating transnational Crime
The recent edition of the conclave (2022) saw the addition of “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief” as the fifth area of cooperation.
In March 2021, a secretariat was established in Colombo.
Colombo Security Conclave: Significance
Maritime security – the conclave conducts “CSC Focused Operation” which plays a key role in keeping the Indian Ocean safe and secure for commercial shipping, international trade and conduct of legitimate maritime activities.
Exchange of information – it further improves the existing harmony in the region through timely exchange of information.
Cooperation between agencies – the conclave will aid in greater understanding and interoperability between the security agencies.
Cybersecurity – the grouping helps in addressing key challenges such as Deep Web, Dark Net, Digital Forensics, Cyber Threat intelligence; and Defensive Operations in Cyber Domain.
Tackling environmental hazards – recent incidents like that of MV Xpress Pearl, MT New Diamond, and MV Wakashio caused wide-scale marine pollution in the Indian Ocean. The conclave also focuses its attention in this regard.
Colombo Security Conclave and India
India has a large coastline along with islands of strategic importance, this makes maritime security an utmost priority for the country.
Closer cooperation among regional partners will aid India’s efforts to ensure security and stability in the region.
The members of the grouping like the Maldives have increased their engagements with the QUAD which is again a key security grouping that India is a member of.
This will help India extend its influence in the region.
The “minilateral” conclave is mainly driven by India and is seen as India’s outreach to the Indian Ocean to underline regional cooperation and shared security objectives.
Through CSC, India can restrict China’s growing dominance in the region and reduce the Chinese influence on the member countries.
The grouping is also in line with India’s vision of “SAGAR: Security and Growth for all in the Region”.
India has strong bilateral relations with each of the member and observer countries and the grouping will further assist in regional cohesion and collaboration.
Even though the strategic interests of the six countries are aligned in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), an attempt to mold the CSC into an institution to counter China’s influence would meet the fate of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), widely regarded as a failure.
To avoid points of contention with its neighbours, India should start to accept that the IOR is developing into a “global commons.”
For a long time New Delhi has been critical of other major powers attempting to have a presence there.
Countries such as Sri Lanka and Maldives, which are more poised to balance between India and China, will not risk converting the CSC into an India’s coalition against China
India should look to extend its soft power in the Indian Ocean region by taking up measures that help in the overall development of countries in the region.
India has extended help to countries like Mauritius and Seychelles in the recent past.
Since the grouping has a large potential and scope, India should look to expand the grouping by urging other countries in the region, especially countries from Africa to join the conclave.
India must also work to increase the capacity of the conclave by sharing technology, extending training facilities, supplying equipment and upgrading coastal security installations with the member countries.
There is an immense need for cooperation in the IOR given the rising number of security issues and uncertainties.
The CSC is more likely to succeed if it maintains a common strategic vision and does not get bogged down by the growing Chinese influence in the region.
To avoid points of contention with its Neighbours, India should start to accept that the IOR is developing into a global common.