26 July 2005


Press Release

Ad Hoc Committee on Indian Ocean

451st Meeting (PM)

Ad hoc committee on Indian ocean adopts report to General Assembly

Over the years, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean had not been able to reach agreement on the manner of implementation of the 1971 Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace, but the validity of the objectives and the vision of the Declaration remained unchanged, its Chairman Prasad Kariyawasam (Sri Lanka) told the Committee today.

The General Assembly declared the Indian Ocean a zone of peace by resolution 2832 (1971).  It called upon the great Powers to enter into immediate consultations with the littoral States of the Indian Ocean with a view to halting the further escalation and expansion of their military presence in the Indian Ocean.  The Declaration upheld the need to preserve the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States of the Indian Ocean region and sought to resolve political, economic and social issues affecting the region under conditions of peace and security.

Speaking as the Committee met to adopt its report to the Assembly, Mr. Kariyawasam said that, since the adoption of the Declaration, the situation in the world, particularly in the Indian Ocean, had undergone a major transformation, including the end of super-Power rivalry which had prevailed in the context of the cold war.  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) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).  However, new threats, such as terrorism, were now affecting the regional stability and security.  Also, disarmament and arms control efforts in the region had lagged behind.  It was, therefore, clear that there was still ample room to develop measures to realize in general objectives of the Declaration.

The Ad Hoc Committee was the only United Nations body that had the capacity to address security issues in a broader sense involving all interrelated aspects, he continued.  A possibility now existed 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 was a wide range of proposals, including that the Ad Hoc Committee should function as a forum for littoral and hinterland States, the permanent members of the Security Council and major maritime users to discuss their security interests.  Regrettably, three permanent members, namely, France, United Kingdom and the United States, had not yet changed their position on non-participation.

He said, 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 might, therefore, recommend that the General Assembly should allow further time for consultations on how measures in the Declaration could be considered in a more focused manner.

The representative of Indonesia said there was a need to develop a concrete and practical framework for regional cooperation and to establish a formal and pragmatic partnership.  The tsunami tragedy had underlined the imperative necessity for such a partnership.  The Asian-African Summit Meeting held in Jakarta in April had adopted a Declaration on Asian-African Partnership.  That partnership would create a region at peace with itself and the world at large.  The partnership was committed to strive for greater multilateralism and would promote a culture of peace and tolerance among religions and cultures.  It would also promote cooperation in such areas as trade, industry, finance, energy, health, tourism, agriculture and water resources.  Effective cooperation would require, among other things, capacity-building, technical assistance and joint efforts to mitigate natural disasters.

The representative of China called for common efforts for countries inside and outside the region to maintain peace and stability in the region and to establish the Zone of Peace at an early date.  To that end, the major Powers outside the region should eliminate their military presence in the Indian Ocean region.  All parties should observe principles such as non-aggression, equality and peaceful coexistence.  States in the region should not seek any armament in excess of their legitimate national defence needs and avoid accumulation of weapons of mass destruction.

The representative of Australia said that, regrettably, the Committee had yet to find a productive direction for its work.  The opportunity for substantive work in the Committee remained poor.  Time and resources devoted to the Committee should remain limited, until such a time that a work programme was agreed upon and substantive work could begin.

The Ad Hoc Committee adopted its agenda (document A/AC.159/L.135) and the draft report to the General Assembly (document A/AC.159/L.136), which was introduced by its Rapporteur, Modeste Randrianarivony (Madagascar).  The report recommended to the Assembly that the Chairman be requested to continue informal consultations with the members of the Committee and to report through the Committee to the Assembly at its sixty-second session.

In other action, the Ad Hoc Committee elected Mr. Kariyawasam (Sri Lanka) as its Chairman, and Ben Milton (Australia) and Adam Tugio (Indonesia) as vice-chairs.  Filipe Chidumo (Mozambique) was re-elected as a vice-chair.

Current members of the Ad Hoc Committee are:  Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Nepal, South Africa and Sweden are observers.

The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.