0402 GMT March 22, 2019
Iran is a very active participant in the Indian Ocean Rim Association deliberations and discussions and a major contributor to the IORA process, said the joint secretary of the Indian Ocean Region Division (IOR) of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Speaking to Iran Daily on the sidelines of his meeting with journalists from the IORA member states in New Delhi, Sanjay Panda said the Middle Eastern country has held the association’s chair for three years from 2007 to 2009.
Established on March 7, 1997, IORA is an intergovernmental organization which seeks to expand regional economic cooperation and strengthen mutually beneficial collaboration through a consensus-based approach.
The vision for IORA originated during a visit by late South African president Nelson Mandela to India in 1995, where he said, “The natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean rim for socioeconomic cooperation. …”
This sentiment and rationale underpinned the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in March 1995, and the creation of the IORA (then known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation) two years later, in March 1997.
The Indian Ocean Rim defines a distinctive area in international politics consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean. Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, in addition to Iran, other IORA member states are Australia, Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the UAE and Yemen.
He said Iran has always actively participated in the senior IORA officials’ meetings and, also, the latest ministerial meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2016.
One of the IORA centers, the Regional Center for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT), is based in the Iranian capital of Tehran, Panda added.
He said, “We look at Iran as a major partner of IORA and appreciate, particularly, the support Iran has extended to the RCSTT. Iranians are doing a wonderful job and working very closely.”
He added as far as IORA is concerned, technology transfer is an important area in which there are a large number of possibilities for collaboration among the IORA members, saying that is why when it comes to the dialogue partners they can contribute substantially in areas of capacity building and technology transfer.
Panda noted that IORA has a close collaboration with an institute called the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
At present, he said, an MoU has been finalized between the CSIR and RCSTT to set up a medicinal plant institute in Lucknow, a large city in northern India, and the two sides are set to sign it.
Panda added tremendous work has been done by Iran in this organization, adding the RCSTT director is from Iran.
“This is one visible part of Iran’s involvement. However, the country actively participates in all other issues of IORA deliberations and is a very important member of the association’s family. All the decisions made by IORA are collective ones and Iran is very much a part of them.”
He called for Iran’s further contribution to IORA by organizing events in the country, adding if necessary, it can receive support from the IORA Special Fund – a financial mechanism for supporting and complementing the funding of projects and programs adopted by the association.
The official said India will be fully supportive in areas of Iran’s interest and expertise and, particularly, the priorities of the association.
“Iran should be proactively pushing the envelope as far as the priority areas are concerned. We feel the country is a major player in the IORA process. We are cooperating with Iran closely in the field of renewable energies. Although the country is not at present part of the International Solar Alliance – an alliance of more than 120 countries, most of them being sunshine countries, which come either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn – the country has a major role to play in terms of renewables.”
He called on Iran to organize the IORA events to share its best practices and expertise with other member countries, adding Iran and India are close friends.
Praising efforts by Indonesia, the present IORA chair during the last two years, he said the Southeast Asian country organized the first IORA Leaders’ Summit in Jakarta in March 2017.
Panda regretted that at present, there is a little lack of understanding about what IORA is all about, what it has been doing and the direction it has gained from 2011 onward.
He added the vision of IORA has to reach through the media to a wider audience, urging journalists and pressmen from the association’s member states to play a more significant role to this end.