Significance of India’s Observer Status in Djibouti

Updated: May 26

Nikita Mulay,

Junior Research Analyst,

Internationalism Research.

Aman Kotecha,

Research Contributor,

Internationalism Research.


The Djibouti code of conduct (DCOC) /Jeddah code was established with an objective of better maritime cooperation among signatories in order to repress piracy and armed robbery of the ships. There are 20 signatories to the DCOC namely; Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, The United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Jordan, Mauritius, Oman, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. It rests on 4 main pillars namely; regional training, national legislation updates, information sharing, and capacity building. In 2017 the code was amended to include illicit activities such as human trafficking and unregulated fishing to address wider maritime issues. The observers to the code include Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Recently, India too has received an observer status during a recent High-level virtual meeting with signatories on the 26th of August. This will help in order to promote India’s vision to increase its presence and influence in the Western and Eastern Indian Ocean and cooperation and coordination with East African coastal states.

Blue Economy

The concept of the ‘Blue Economy’ was first coined in the year 2010 by Gunter Paulie in his book “The Blue Economy: 10 years 100 innovations, 100 million jobs”. The concept of the Blue Economy is recognised by the DCOC. It pertains to the sustainable use of the ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ecosystem. Sustainable development, limited fishing, and increasing maritime security is extremely crucial and therefore needs to be ensured. As an observer, India will now be able to oversee and contribute to the initiatives taken up in order to promote economic growth and sustainable development.

Need for securing the Maritime borders

China’s diplomacy is seen to be aggressive, with increasing political conflicts with prominent economies like Australis, United States, Japan and India it has put a strain on the diplomatic ties. There is a significant trust deficit across the globe. However, China still continues its debt-trap diplomacy which is a cause for concern for the world as it has the potential to disrupt the world economy. India’s neighbouring countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka have all seen to be fallen prey to the debt trap, this has also led to a significant increase in the political costs of dealing with these countries. In order to reduce the influence of Chinese debt trap, India has recently sanctioned a 250 million dollar loan (no strings attached) to the Maldives to counter China’s increasing influence through its debt trap in the South Asian region. Djibouti is also under the radar of becoming a victim of the Chinese debt trap. China’s first overseas military base is to be constructed in Djibouti. Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and a possible debt trap in Djibouti where China’s first overseas base is set to be built is worrisome. China’s increasing presence in the Indo-Pacific region and its territorial claims in the South China Sea has disrupted the peace in this region. Therefore, there is an increasing need to protect maritime boundaries. The observer status in DCOC will provide India with the necessary boost in the Indian ocean outreach from a security perspective. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has released a statement saying that the country “looks forward” to coordinating with other member-states to “enhance maritime security” in the region at large.


Majorly, an observer status will give India a position of strength to protect the Indian Ocean Region(IOR). At a time where the entire world is vulnerable, struggling due to the pandemic, dealing with a major economic crisis and a global trust deficit there is a need to ensure economic growth, sustainable development and security of the countries through collective efforts. With the current situation, it is evident that there is a substantial strain on Indo-China relationship with escalating border tensions near the LAC among the two nations. The Indian Navy has purportedly noted the increasing presence of Chinese Ships in the Indian Ocean.

Considering, the nature of diplomacy among the countries and the global trust deficit. The DCOC observer status comes at a time where the protection of maritime borders is increasingly important. India’s strategic partnership with the QUAD and its relation with the ASEAN will also aid India in securing peace in the IOR. Observer status in DCOC is a boon to India as it will play a crucial role in securing the IOR.