High-ranking naval officers from 50 countries will be converging on Cape Town, South Africa, for the third edition of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which seeks to increase safety and stability in the Indian Ocean Rim region.
While piracy on the high seas is a key issue on the agenda, IONS will be addressing numerous other issues affecting countries from South Africa through the Arabian Sea to India, the island nations of Malaysia and Indonesia, along with Australia. The Symposium is a bi-annual event which has grown to receive at least 50 representatives from littoral states of the Indian Ocean.
The Convention begins today, Tuesday, April 10, 2012 and is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and ends Friday, April 13 2012. Issues include concerns caused by great power rivalry, with the partial withdrawal of US forces from the region and an increase in Chinese influence, which causes concern in India
IONS was first held in India in 2008 and the second meeting was in Abu Dhabi in May, 2010. While members are from seaward states (littoral states) surrounding the Ocean, an exception is France, which owns Mayotte in the Comores Islands and La Reunion, east of Madagascar.
This year’s IONS has grown to warrant the opening address being given by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. While IONS is a military event, it has numerous civilian implications, notably with the Indian Ocean Rim grouping, or IOR-ARC, which seeks to increase trade with the region.
Historically, the Indian Ocean was a major trade route, with Chinese and Arab trade predominating, moving silk from China, spices from Indonesia to India’s Malabar Coast and Arab trade in slaves, ivory and sandalwood and ebony which made the East African Swahili Coast (from Kenya to Mozambique) fabulously wealthy.