ISLAMABAD - A two-day Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Working Group meeting commenced here on Tuesday under the auspices of Pakistan Navy.

Chaired by Pakistan Navy, the working group consists of 10 member nations including Australia, Bangladesh, France, India, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and UAE.

According to Pakistan Navy spokesperson, this is the second time Pakistan is hosting IONS activities in Pakistan. In 2015, Pakistan Navy hosted IONS working group on Info Sharing and Interoperability along with IONS preparatory workshop in Karachi. The theme of Working Group remains “Information Sharing and Interoperability”.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Rear Admiral Muhammad Fayyaz Gilani, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (Operations), highlighted the importance of Indian Ocean region for global maritime community.

He highlighted that being energy rich, the region faces host of security, human and environmental challenges.

While underscoring the maritime threats, he said that threats to maritime security in the region emanate primarily from contemporary challenges like maritime terrorism, piracy, narco-arms and human smuggling and that collaborative maritime security has become the scarlet thread to ensure peace and stability in the region.

The Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (Operations) further added that Pakistan Navy is fully cognizant of the challenges being faced in maritime domain and as a firm believer in the concept of collaborative maritime security , it has been actively participating in maritime security and counter-piracy operations in the region along with other partner nations.

Pakistan Navy’s participation in combined task forces 150 and 151 has contributed significantly towards peace and security in the North Arabian Sea.

He also mentioned that the Pakistan Navy always looks forward to participate in IONS related activities as the forum has tremendous potential to contribute towards peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region.

In today’s era of globalization, importance of information sharing needs no emphasis. Therefore, the Info Sharing and Interoperability Working Group has a vital role in connecting all members and observers and to enhance cooperation in common areas of interest.

Later, in the key note address, Rear Admiral (R) Pervaiz Asghar underlined the importance of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in improving regional connectivity and its likely impact on increasing maritime trade in the region. He also highlighted the importance of collaborative and cooperative approach to security for mutual benefit.

The IONS is a multinational forum established in 2008. Pakistan became member of this forum in March 2014. Over the years, the forum has gained considerable significance in the regional maritime affairs.

During the two-day event, the working group will deliberate on different measures to improve information sharing as well as ways and means to enhance interoperability amongst the IONS nations.