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Cablegate: Maldives Hosts Indian Ocean Countries for U.S. Coast

VZCZCXRO2678
RR RUEHBI RUEHDE
DE RUEHLM #0534/01 1550606
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030606Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8212
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0464
RUEHAN/AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO 0008
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0994
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0931
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7920
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6095
RUEHMS/AMEMBASSY MUSCAT 0074
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2077
RUEHPL/AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS 0522
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 5736
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3502
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 3405
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8531
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0152
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2357
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 5976
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCOWCA/COAST GUARD SECURITY CENTER CHESAPEAKE VA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000534

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y ADDED ADDRESSEE AND STATEMENT 11

DEPT FOR SCA/INS, SCA/RA, AF/E, EEB/TRA/OTP, AND S/CT

E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: EWWT MARR PREL PTER BG CN IN MA MP MU MV PK SL
SUBJECT: MALDIVES HOSTS INDIAN OCEAN COUNTRIES FOR U.S. COAST
GUARD-ORGANIZED MARITIME SECURITY CONFERENCE

REF: COLOMBO 492

COLOMBO 00000534 001.3 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary: In conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, the
Government of Maldives hosted the "Partnering for a Safer Sea"
conference May 19-22, at which Indian Ocean national and private
maritime security and maritime industry stakeholders discussed
regional security trends and issues. Official delegates from the
following countries participated: Bangladesh, Comoros, India,
Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Oman, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The
U.S. Coast Guard conceived the conference as the inaugural event of
an ongoing South Asia Regional Port Security Cooperative (SARPSCO).
The conference concluded with the agreement that there should be an
annual SARPSCO forum to discuss port security issues -- such as
terrorism, illegal fishing, trafficking of drugs, weapons and
persons, and piracy in the Indian Ocean region. India sought to
limit the new forum's scope to port, not maritime, security. End
summary.

MALDIVES PRESIDENT, USCG ADMIRAL AND
US AMBASSADOR OPEN CONFERENCE
------------------------------------

2. (U) The "Partnering for a Safer Sea Conference" May 19-22 at Sun
Island Resort, Maldives, brought together over 100 participants to
discuss port and maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean
region, and to explore the possibility of establishing a
multi-national forum to enhance maritime cooperation in the region.
The main organizers of the conference were the Maldives Ministry of
Foreign Affairs; Maldives Ministry of Transport and Communication;
and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Embassy Colombo provided
administrative and logistical support. Maldives President Gayoom,
Minister of Transport and Communication Saeed, USCG Rear Admiral
Craig E. Bone, and Ambassador Blake inaugurated the conference by
speaking on the importance of regional cooperation and public and
private partnership to address transnational maritime threats.

3. (SBU) U.S. Coast Guard Activities Far East, based in Japan,
originated the idea for a consultative group of Indian Ocean nations
after having conducted port security audits in the region in which
participants frequently mentioned their lack of contact with their
counterparts in the region. USCG envisioned a forum that would
enable port and other maritime officials to discuss operational
issues and establish contacts for sharing information and best
practices. Coast Guard initially considered advancing the
initiative through the South Asia Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC), but decided not to do so because it wanted to
include non-SAARC Indian Ocean countries.

NINE COUNTRIES PARTICIPATE
--------------------------

4. (U) Conference participants included a mix of harbormasters and
port authorities; customs and border control officials; and coast
guard and navy officers and from Bangladesh, Comoros, India,
Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Oman, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Seychelles was invited but did not send representatives.
International non-governmental organization representatives
participated from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and
INTERPOL. Private sector participants included representatives of
Dubai Ports World and Hutchison Ports Ltd. In addition to Admiral
Bone and Ambassador Blake, U.S. participants included USCG
International Port Security Liaison Officers, USCG Public Affairs,
USCG Activities Far East, USCG Pacific Area, a US Customs and Border
Protection officer, and Embassy Colombo Econoff.

COLOMBO 00000534 002.2 OF 003

5. (U) Participants discussed maritime and port security issues that
included piracy and armed robbery, drug and human trafficking,
improving the IMO's International Ship and Port Facility Security
(ISPS) code, updating security requirements for private ports and
container terminals, long range tracking and surveillance, current
and upcoming customs activities and regulations (such as the U.S.
9/11 act, which requires 100% screening of U.S.-bound cargo
containers), and new security requirements for participating port
authorities.

SARPSCO -- NOT AN ORGANIZATION, BUT A FORUM --
TO MEET AGAIN IN 2009
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (U) The conference produced a SARPSCO Conclusions document that
stated the participants' agreement that the conference was a "useful
platform through which government officials and other professionals
engaged in the development and implementation of measures to enhance
security of ports..." and discussed issues such as piracy and armed
robbery against ships, illegal trafficking of migrants, arms, drugs,
illegal and unregulated fishing, and measures to enhance security of
ports. The participants "agreed that the establishment of a forum"
with official representation from the participating countries,
private sector stakeholders, and intergovernmental and
non-governmental organizations involved with port security "would be
useful to enhance security of the ports" in the Indian Ocean region.
The document welcomed Mauritius' intention to host a follow-up
SARPSCO conference in 2009, and India's and Sri Lanka's interest in
hosting future meetings.

INDIA INITIALLY SUSPICIOUS OF USCG ROLE
---------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Indian delegation, led by India's outspoken defense
attache to Colombo, initially opposed the SARPSCO concept due to the
heavy USG involvement, which they stated they were unaware of prior
to their arrival. They were also opposed to the group discussing
not just port, but broader maritime security issues, because, they
argued, that was the domain of navies, not civilian maritime
officials. No other delegation openly opposed the U.S. role, but
participants agreed to India's desire to keep the focus on ports.
Almost all participants actively voiced their strong support for
this conference and for the ongoing SARPSCO forum that Coast Guard
envisioned. Ultimately, the IMO representative and several private
stakeholders, with the encouragement of the USCG representatives,
successfully persuaded the Indian delegation to sign on to the
Conlusions document supporting an ongoing SARPSCO form.

8. (SBU) The role of the USCG at future SARPCO conferences was not
addressed. USCG international port security liaison officer told
EconOff tat USCG does not intend to be a lead organizer, asit was
this time, in future SARPSCO events. TheUSCG role, he expected,
would depend on whether the host nation and regional participants
sought its involvement, and the level of support and resources
provided by USCG headquarters.

9. (SBU) The conference was reported on Television Maldives (TVM)
and in local Maldivian, Sri Lankan, and Indian press, as well as the
International Herald Tribune, with most reporting essentially the
content of USCG press releases. Some reports referred to SARPSCO as
a new regional security "organization," as stated in Coast Guard's
initial press release. Subsequent Coast Guard press releases did
not repeat the incorrect reference to SARPSCO as an organization.

COLOMBO 00000534 003.2 OF 003

COMMENT: VALUABLE FIRST STEP TOWARDS INDIAN OCEAN
MARITME SECURITY COOPERATION
--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (SBU) The "Partnering for a Safer Sea" conference was a good
first step in a valuable U.S. Coast Guard initiative. The broad
participation and attendees' receptive attitudes showed that the
Coast Guard was correct in perceiving a need for a regional forum
for maritime security consultations and information sharing. It
will be important to engage further with India to gauge the
seriousness of its objections to U.S. involvement and issues beyond
port security. In part, at least, the Indian defense attache was
understandably reacting to not having had in advance of the
conference a clear picture of the U.S. role and the envisioned scope
of the forum. The Coast Guard intends to address those concerns in
the course of its continuing bilateral discussions with its Indian
counterparts.

11. (U) U.S. Coast Guard Activities Far East cleared on this cable.
MOORE

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