Asia-Pacific navies of 22 countries including India signed Maritime Communication Agreement on 22 April 2014. The agreement was reached by the Naval Chiefs of these countries at the biennial conference of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS). The symposium is being held from 21 - 25 April 2014 in Quingdao, the Eastern port city of China.
The agreement was aimed at ensuring that miscommunication between naval vessels does not develop into conflict in the Pacific Ocean. The agreement outlined the process on how the naval ships should communicate and manoeuvre at time when they unexpectedly come in contact in sea lanes surrounding Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
Besides this agreement, Pakistan was given the observer status in the 21-member WPNS. With the inclusion of Pakistan as observer, the total number of countries with observer status in WPNS now stands at 4. The other three countries with observer status are India, Bangladesh and Mexico.
The Qingdao symposium was the first biennial meet to be hosted by China which is one of the founding members of the WPNS.
The agreement is significant from the viewpoint that miscommunication between different countries navies are increasingly becoming a centre of conflict in the Pacific Ocean. Also the agreement may help in toning down the escalating disputes between China and neighboring countries including Japan. Some of ASEAN nations have disputed islands in the East and South China seas.
About Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS)
The origins of the WPNS lie in the 1987 International Seapower Symposium. At the 1987 Symposium, the discussion on the benefits of free discussion between Chiefs of Navies led to an agreement in the Western Pacific Regional Committee to hold a similar regional meeting.
The agreement resulted in the formation of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), which held its first meeting in 1988 with 13 founding members.
The WPNS aims to increase cooperation and the ability to operate together, as well as to build trust and confidence between Navies by providing a framework to enable the discussion of maritime issues of mutual interest, the exchange of information, the practice and demonstration of capabilities, and the exchange of personnel.
There are five primary objectives of the WPNS
• To discuss and develop cooperative initiatives, and identify those that merit further development and practice.
• To explore and develop new ways of enhancing friendship and professional cooperation.
• To develop Navy-to-Navy relationships at a variety of levels to build confidence and trust for today and the future.
• To exchange information on a broad range of maritime matters of mutual interest.
• To ensure lines of communication are established and maintained in order to facilitate continued liaison among delegates outside of Workshops and Symposia.
WPNS comprise the navies whose countries border the Pacific Ocean region.
21 member states of WPNS are: Australia; Brunei;Cambodia; Canada; Chile; China; France; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; Republic of Korea; Russia; Singapore; Thailand; Tonga; The US; and Vietnam.