Male (Maldives), Sep 4 (IANS) With the Indian Ocean region coming to global focus, even as China seeks to increase its foothold in the region, littoral countries, including India, have gathered here for a two-day conference (September 3-4) in the Maldives capital.Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is in Male for the Fourth Indian Ocean Conference 2019, being organised by India Foundation, in association with the Government of Maldives and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. Jaishankar is one of the speakers at the event.The theme of the conference is "Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges".In his opening address at the event being held at the Paraside Island Resort, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that thanks to the location of his country at the heart of this strategic region, this island nation "understands well the need to find common ground and effectively organize in order to meet the mutual challenges confronted by countries across the region".Solih underlined the key issues for the region as being climate change, proper implementation of maritime laws under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and combating illicit trafficking of humans and narcotics. He also emphasised the need for countries from across the region to come together to confront terrorism and violent extremism.He said the countries of the Indian Ocean region must enhance intra-regional cooperation through participating in and strengthening formal intergovernmental bodies, like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).Sharing details of the conference on its website, India Foundation, said: "The traditional and non-traditional security challenges facing the Indian Ocean Region remain unabated. Geopolitics and trade continue to be contentious and the spectre of terrorism looms large over several countries of the region." "Issues such as rising sea water levels, hazardous levels of pollution of the seas leading to depletion of marine livestock, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing elude consensus in international deliberation. Many of these challenges pose serious and immediate problems for the region. These challenges require concerted and sustained partnership efforts across the region and beyond"The conference discussion themes have been grouped under the three broad categories of Marine Ecology: Climate Change, Global warming and consequent rise of sea levels, pollution, sustainable harnessing of oceanic resources; Terrorism: Rising spectre of terrorism in the Indian Ocean Region, marine terrorism; Navigational Security: Freedom of navigation, UNCLOS and its effective implementation, natural and manmade hazards to navigation, piracy.Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Chair of the conference.Ministers, officials and scholars from several countries are attending the two-day event.
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