HPM Sheikh Hasina raises six priority points for Indian Ocean region's resilient future

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Published on May 12, 2023
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today raised six priority areas for the countries of the Indian Ocean region, including fostering maritime diplomacy and partnership, and strengthening maritime security and mutual trust for prosperity for all.

"Despite its potential, the region faces many challenges. The countries in the Indian Ocean region, therefore, need to foster partnerships and cooperation for ensuring peace, and prosperity for all," she said while inaugurating the 6th Indian Ocean Conference (IOC)-2023 in a city hotel here in the capital.

Dhaka is hosting the two-day conference with participation of the high-level government delegations and think-tanks from at least 25 countries.

Addressing the inaugural session, Hasina said given its geographical position, the Indian Ocean holds significant importance for not only Bangladesh, but for all the countries in the region. Bangladesh has recently formulated its Indo-Pacific Outlook, she said.

She said, "I would like to underscore six priority areas at this 6th Indian Ocean Conference. First: Countries in the Indian Ocean Region should foster "Maritime Diplomacy" for their development, thereby ensuring a prosperous future. Second: Climate vulnerability of many countries in the region calls for the need to enhance cooperation to reduce the impact of natural disasters," she said.

"Third: Strengthen mutual trust and respect among the countries for building strong partnerships to ensure stability for a resilient future in the Indian Ocean. Fourth: Strengthen existing mechanisms on maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean, including response to emergencies at sea, conduct of search and rescue, uphold the exercise of freedom of navigation and over flight, in accordance with international law," she added.

"Fifth: Promote 'culture of peace' and people centric development in the region. Women, half of the global population, should get due attention, for building peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the region. Sixth: Need to promote open, transparent, rules-based multilateral systems that facilitate equitable and sustainable development in the region and beyond through inclusive economic growth," the PM went on.

She said the oceans and seas account for 90% of world trade and 60% of oil transportation. The real value of global maritime trade has remarkably increased in the past 15 years.

She said oceans offer excellent opportunities in supporting sustainable development in countries the world over. Yet much of the potential still remains untapped.

She noted that the Indian Ocean region has significant economic, political, and strategic implications in the Asia-Pacific and African regions. It shares 64% of global population and 60% of global GDP, she said.

PM Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enacted the "Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1974", eight years prior to the "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982."

About the theme of the Conference - "Peace, Partnership and Prosperity: Towards a resilient future," the premier said it is very appropriate and timely. "There is an intricate relation among the three (words) to ensure a resilient future," she said.

"The theme becomes all the more relevant in light of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and consequent sanctions and counter-sanctions. These have posed unprecedented challenges for all nations world over," she said.

Hasina said global recession, food, energy, and fertilizer crises have resulted in unbearable living conditions for all people of the world. The Indian Ocean region has also been facing challenges such as climate change, maritime security, terrorism, and natural disasters. "To overcome them, the countries in the region must come together to build partnership, and put collective efforts to promote peace and prosperity, for a brighter region," she said.

She said Bangladesh views the "Culture of Peace" as an essential element that will reinforce all aspects of peace. It is why Bangladesh is committed to UN's global peacekeeping and peace-building endeavors. Currently our troop contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping is among the highest in the world.

The PM said despite many challenges, Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to more than 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. This gesture avoided a major humanitarian catastrophe in the region. "Now, we seek support from the global community to repatriate the Rohingya people to their homeland in a safe and sustainable manner," she added.

She said Bangladesh believes in the challenges, traditional and non-traditional, that the Indian Ocean region is facing. "We remain committed to playing our role for peace in the region, and expect all other countries to do the same to ensure a resilient future," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh, as a littoral state, has been a hub of maritime activities for centuries. It is active in many regional platforms. Bangladesh is the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. It is also the current President of the Council of the International Seabed Authority.

President of Mauritius Prithvirajsing Roopun, Vice President of the Maldives Faisal Nassem, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and President of India Foundation Ram Madhav also spoke in the inaugural session.