As China makes rapid inroads into the western Indian Ocean, India is hoping to shore up its own security and defence engagement with the strategically significant Madagascar and Comoros Islands in the region. Both countries have confirmed their participation in the Indian Ocean Region meeting of defence ministers which India will host next week.
While Madagascar delegation will be headed by its defence minister Richard Rakotonirina, Comoros will send a defence delegation under its foreign minister Dhoihir Dhoulkamal. This is the first time that a high-level defence delegation will visit India from the archipelago off the east coast of Africa.
India will host the IOR defence ministers’ conclave, themed Enhanced Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Indian Ocean, alongside Aero India 2021in Bengaluru on February 4. As Indian officials have been quoted as saying, the conclave is an attempt to promote dialogue in an “institutional and cooperative environment that can foster peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region”. Recognising the geopolitical significance of Madagascar and Comoros, where China continues to ramp up its connectivity and security related activities, the foreign ministry had in 2019 included these countries in IOR division that also handles Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives , Sri Lanka.
Madagascar though is still awaiting appointment of a defence attache despite an approval in principle by the government in 2019. The defence ministry is expected to clear the proposal soon. India had signed a defence MoU with Madagascar in 2018 under which they are said to be discussing several projects for capacity building and training of Madagascar’s defence personnel.