The evolving role of the Colombo Security Conclave – India’s Colombo Security Conclave: Navigating a Changing Indian Ocean | 25 December 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the strategic importance of Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) for India.


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.


  • India's National Security Adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval, recently attended the sixth NSA meeting of the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC), where the progress of the CSC and its roadmap for 2024 were discussed.
  • The meeting included member-states Mauritius and Sri Lanka, and observer-states Bangladesh and Seychelles.
  • The absence of the Maldives, due to domestic politics, highlighted the impact of internal dynamics on regional collaboration.

Colombo Security Conclave (CSC):

  • The Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) is a regional security forum established in 2011, initially as a trilateral grouping between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
  • Its focus lies on maritime security, counter-terrorism, and cybersecurity in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Mauritius joined as the fourth member in 2021, with Bangladesh and Seychelles participating as observers.
  • Encourages information sharing, joint training, and coordinated responses to security threats in the IOR.
  • Focus areas:
    • Maritime security: Combating piracy, illegal fishing, human trafficking, and other maritime crimes.
    • Counter-terrorism: Sharing intelligence, best practices, and coordinating efforts to combat terrorism and extremism.
    • Cybersecurity: Addressing cyber threats, promoting cybercrime prevention, and building cyber resilience.
  • Flexibility and evolution: Open to expanding membership and activities to address emerging challenges in the region.
  • Significance:
    • Promotes regional security: Enhances cooperation and understanding between IOR nations.
    • Counters China's influence: Seen as India's effort to maintain its strategic leadership in the IOR and counter China's growing maritime presence.
    • Boosts capacity building: Provides smaller island nations with training and resources to improve their security capabilities.
  • Challenges:
    • Differing priorities among members: Balancing individual national interests with regional security objectives.
    • Resource constraints: Smaller island nations might struggle to implement CSC initiatives due to limited resources.
    • Geopolitical dynamics: External influences and rivalries could potentially disrupt the Conclave's progress.
  • Overall, the Colombo Security Conclave presents a promising platform for enhanced cooperation and security in the IOR. Its success will depend on its ability to address internal challenges, adapt to evolving threats, and maintain its focus on regional security collaboration.


  • Changing Dynamics: India's Evolving Role in the Indian Ocean
    • The Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) reflects the evolving geopolitical landscape of the Indian Ocean.
    • Established in 2011, the CSC initially focused on maritime security between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
    • After a period of stagnation, India revived and expanded the CSC in 2020, welcoming Mauritius, Seychelles, and Bangladesh as observers.
    • This expansion reflects India's strategic vision of strengthening its leadership and shaping the regional security architecture.
  • For India: Security, Influence, and Countering China's Rise
    • The Indian Ocean is strategically crucial for India, and its lack of security poses challenges.
    • India has historically played a vital role in regional security, assisting island nations in capacity building, infrastructure, and equipment.
    • The CSC provides a platform for India to institutionalize its leadership, address existing threats, and counter China's growing influence.
  • The China Factor: Balancing Cooperation and Competition
    • China's Belt and Road Initiative and increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean are seen as a challenge to India's dominance.
    • While India expresses concerns, it also recognizes that many regional countries are dependent on China and hesitant to adopt an overtly anti-China stance.
    • The CSC's focus on five pillars – maritime security, terrorism, cybercrime, disaster relief – allows India to collaborate with regional states on shared threats while accommodating their strategic priorities.
  • Progress and Challenges: Building a Sustainable Security Architecture
    • Since 2021, the CSC has achieved significant progress in joint investigations, conferences, and capacity building initiatives.
    • However, the organization's young age and susceptibly to domestic political changes in member states pose challenges.
    • The Maldives's recent absence highlights the potential impact of nationalist and pro-China agendas on the CSC's stability.

Way Forward:

  • Despite challenges, the CSC remains an important instrument for India to consolidate its regional leadership and address security concerns in the Indian Ocean. Navigating the complex dynamics of domestic politics, balancing cooperation and competition, and building a sustainable security architecture will be crucial for the CSC's long-term success.

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