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Australia, India and Sri Lanka hold trilateral dialogue


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The Pathfinder Foundation, together with an Australian delegation led by the National Security College at the Australian National University and Carnegie India held a one-day Track II trilateral conference titled ‘Colombo Dialogue: Emerging Dialogue in the Indian Ocean – Regional Cooperation on Maritime Domain Awareness’ recently at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo. 

Considering the geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region in the current global and regional economic and geopolitical dynamics, the co-hosts considered it important to share knowledge and engage in a discourse on this significant area of interest in order to ensure greater security, collaboration and cooperation in the region and beyond. 

With a more globally connected economy and the Indian Ocean Region’s continued reliance on the maritime environment for trade and commerce, it is important to ensure a safe and secure maritime domain, which is critical to national security and economic well-being of the littorals in the Indian Ocean. 

The challenges facing states in the Indian Ocean have vastly changed over the past decade and make future maritime security environment increasingly complicated and uncertain. The first step toward enhancing maritime security is achieving increased awareness of activities in the maritime domain. Sri Lanka’s geographically central location in the Indian Ocean at the crossroads of major east-west sea lanes makes it a perfect location to engage in such a dialogue.

The dialogue covered themes such as Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific Oceans and Transnational Security Threats; Challenges in Building Regional Maritime Security Architecture in the Indian Ocean; and Governance at Sea and Maritime Domain Awareness. This trilateral forum was held with the participation of Indian, Australian and Sri Lankan academics and subject matter experts on maritime security, maritime strategy and regional cooperation. 

On the Australian side, Prof. Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College of the Australian National University, Dr. David Brewster and Commodore (Retd.) Richard Menhinick presented papers. Dr. Raja C. Mohan, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and Darshana Baruah presented papers representing Carnegie India. On the Sri Lankan side, papers were presented by former Commanders of the Sri Lanka Navy, Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, Admiral Travis Sinniah and Barana Waidyatillake representing the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute.

Pathfinder Foundation Chairman Bernard Goonetilleke delivered the welcome address and the High Commissioner of Australia for Sri Lanka Bryce Hutchesson graced the occasion as the chief guest and delivered the opening remarks. 

High Commissioner Hutchesson noted that Australia, Sri Lanka and India had increasingly congruent security interests, particularly when it came to the stability and openness of the Indian Ocean. He said that for Australia, no long-term foreign policy goal was more important than keeping the Indo-Pacific region peaceful and prosperous at a time of change. He emphasised that it made good sense for Australia, Sri Lanka and India to develop a strategic conversation, including through second track dialogues like the Colombo Dialogue. 

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