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Iran: Colonial powers militarizing Indian Ocean to sell more arms, advance own economic goals

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami addresses the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defense Ministers’ Conclave in the Indian city of Bangalore on February 4, 2021. (Photo by IRNA)

Iran’s defense minister has warned against attempts by outsiders to provoke an arms race in the Indian Ocean and turn it into a weapons stockpile, saying colonial powers are militarizing the strategic region to sell more arms and advance their own economic interests.

In a Thursday address to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defense Ministers’ Conclave in Bangalore, Brigadier General Amir Hatami cautioned the ocean’s littoral countries against foreign plots to destabilize the region in pursuit of their own goals.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not welcome militarization of the [Indian Ocean] region and is concerned about unconstructive arms races, accumulation of weapons and transformation of the region into a weapons arsenal,” Hatami said

“This [situation] stems from a malevolent and ominous conspiracy hatched by some extra-regional colonial powers with the purpose of selling more arms to regional countries and making their own economies flourish by holding back the states in the region from making progress at home and [prompting them to] spend their limited resources on military affairs and thus fulfill their own interests by keeping the region occupied” with problems and conflicts, he added.

The IOR states are capable of collectively managing the region and dealing with insecurity by joining forces and strengthening empathy, he added.

Hatami said Iran regards the Indian Ocean as a gateway towards the world through the sea and believes that the Indian Ocean states are entitled to all the blessings of this vast body of water.

“Due to its unique geopolitical and geostrategic position created by its vast coastal lines along the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and control over the strategic strait of Hormuz, Iran enjoys a distinguished position in the Indian Ocean since this vast body of water is the gateway towards Caucasus, Europe and West Asia,” he said, expressing the country’s willingness to use such an advantage for the benefit, progress and security of itself and other regional states.

The Iranian defense chief emphasized that the region must be governed via high domestic standards of security, saying, “We believe that the Indian Ocean enjoys high potentials for the global peace and it may serve as a role model for the rest of the world. This is achievable through mutual cooperation and commitments, innovation, rationality, and courage for taking action.” 

He stressed the importance of establishing collective security and making progress in the region based on regional potentials, capabilities and strengths with the participation of all neighboring countries.

Hatami said some littoral states are still facing poverty and underdevelopment, despite the existence of this vast and rich oceanic water, warning that such a situation could lead to insecurity in the region.

He called on regional states not to remain indifferent towards the security developments in the region, including the Indian Ocean, as insecurity in one place would impact the surrounding areas and beyond.

The Iranian defense minister further likened terrorism to a “contagious disease,” which grows and spreads anywhere it finds a breeding ground, warning that the United States and the Israeli regime “would take advantage of terrorism as an instrument for influencing others and imposing their will on them.”

Hatami warned against the expansion of terrorism and voiced the Islamic Republic’s readiness to share its experience and knowledge with its neighbors in fighting the scourge.

He said the assassination of top Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iraq early in 2020 as well as the murder of Iranian defense and nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh indicated that the perpetrators and sponsors of state terrorism “are not only untrustworthy but they also betray the lofty objectives of humanity such as combating terrorism and saving the oppressed people.”

As one of the largest states in the IOR, Iran has over the past years developed a powerful presence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, which covers approximately one-fifth of the total ocean area of the world stretching between the southern tips of Africa and Australia.

The Islamic Republic’s naval forces usually hold military drills in the strategic waters with the aim of both bolstering its defense preparedness against potential enemy threats and promoting the security of international trade in the high seas.

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