Even though the Cold War geo-political divide had faded, new threats such as terrorism now affect the stability and security of Indian Ocean countries, obliging all States to cooperate in implementing a 35-year-old United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an end to military build-up in the region, the chairman of UN ad hoc panel has urged.
Over the years, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean has been unable to agree on ways to fully implement the Assembly's 1971 Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace, but the validity of the objectives and the vision of the Declaration remain unchanged, its Chairman, Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka, told the Committee yesterday as it adopted its report to the UN's 191-member governing body.
He said the Declaration called upon the "great Powers" to begin immediate talks with coastal Indian Ocean States with a view to halting the further escalation and expansion of their military presence in the region. It upheld the need to preserve the independence and territorial integrity of those States and sought to resolve political, economic and social issues affecting the region under conditions of peace and security.
But since the adoption of the Declaration, the situation in the world, particularly in the Indian Ocean, has undergone a major transformation, including the end of super-Power rivalry which has prevailed during the Cold War, he said, adding that today there were a number of cooperative initiatives aimed at bringing about socio-economic development, such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
However, new threats, such as terrorism, now affect the regional stability and security. Also, disarmament and arms control efforts in the region has lagged behind. It is, therefore, clear that there was still ample room to develop measures to realize in general objectives of the Declaration, he stressed.
The Ad Hoc Committee is the only UN body that had the capacity to address security issues in a broader sense involving all interrelated aspects, the Chairman said, and the possibility now exists of exploring a new approach to the scope of the Committee's work and it might even become necessary to consider revision of the Declaration.
There is a wide range of proposals, including that the Ad Hoc Committee should function as a forum for coastal and hinterland States, the permanent members of the Security Council and major maritime users to discuss their security interests. Regrettably, three of the Council's permanent members, namely, France, United Kingdom and the United States, have not yet changed their position on non-participation.
He said that following consultation with Committee members, there appeared to be a general sense that further time would be needed before the Committee could embark on any discussion on practical measures to ensure peace and stability in the Indian Ocean. The Committee recommended that the Assembly allow further time for consultations on how measures in the Declaration could be considered in a more focused manner.