Ministers from 19 countries in the Indian Ocean region are discussing ways to work together to boost maritime security and ensure that some of the world's busiest sealanes are kept safe for global trade.

The ministers met in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon on Friday to chalk out a 10-year roadmap for the group to promote trade and investment in the fast-growing economic region.

India's external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, says the Indian Ocean's geo-strategic importance "cannot be underestimated."

The group includes Australia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa. China, France, Egypt, Japan and the U.K. attend the meetings as observers. The United States says it would like to become an observer as well.