On 29-31 March 1995, the Mauritius Government convened a meeting to discuss the enhancement of economic co-operation among countries of the Indian Ocean Rim. Representatives from the government, business sectors and academia, from Australia, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Sultanate of Oman, Singapore and South Africa, known as the "CoreGroupStates" or M-7, attended the meeting. In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the participants declared that they had agreed on "Principles of Open Regionalism and Inclusivity of Membership, with the objectives of Trade Liberalization and Promoting Trade Co-operation. Activities would focus on Trade Facilitation, Investment Promotion and Economic Co-operation."
A tripartite Working Group (Government, Academic and Private Sector) met in Mauritius on 15 -17 August of 1995. This meeting decided to create a "Second Track" process as complimentary to an Inter-Governmental Movement. A later meeting during September 1996 in Mauritius finalised a Charter for the creation of the IORA, and expanded the membership to include Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Yemen,Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique- known as the M-14.
Adoption of Charter
The IORA was formally launched at the first Ministerial Meeting in Mauritius on 6 - 7 March 1997. This meeting adopted the IORA Charter, and determined a number of administrative and procedural matters.
Mechanism for Launch and Dialogue Partners
The Second Biennial Council of Ministers Meeting was held in Maputo, Mozambique in March 1999. This meeting was critical for the future of the IORA, and Ministers agreed to a realistic, outcomes focused Trade and Investment Agenda, based on Trade Facilitation, Trade Liberalisation, and Economic and Technical Co-operation. It was agreed to establish a Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI). The Ministers also decided to invite Bangladesh, Islamic Republic of Iran, Seychelles, Thailand and the UAE to join the Association, and to invite Egypt and Japan to participate as Dialogue Partners.
An extraordinary meeting of the IORA Ministerial Council took place in Muscat, Oman, in January 2000, designed to formally welcome the new members and Dialogue Partners in the IORA. This was also the first time that the WGTI met. At this meeting, the Ministers adopted a Trade and Investment Plan of Action, which included an agreement to compile a Compendia on Customs Regimes, Quarantine and Food Inspection and Investment Regimes, to be completed before the next Ministerial Meeting in Oman in April 2001. The meeting also approved applications for Dialogue Partner Status from the Peoples Republic of China and the United Kingdom.
The Third Ministerial Meeting of the IORA was held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, on 7 and 8 April 2001. This Council of Ministers (COM) meeting was immediately preceded by meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG), the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF) and the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI). At this meetingFrancewas admitted as a Dialogue Partner.
In recent years, IORA has gained tremendous momentum. The breadth and depth of regional co-operation has been continually expanded. The Association also continues to grow in terms of membership. In November 2012, Comoros became the 20th IORA Member State, and the United States of America became the organisation's sixth Dialogue Partner.