Commitment to address security and other challenges

Alongside huge economic potential, the counties of the Indo-Pacific face various challenges pertaining to security, climate change and more. In order to address this situation, the US, Japan and Australia have made a strong pledge to increase investments and diplomatic involvement in Bangladesh and other countries of the region.

These commitments were made by the vice-ministers and other representatives of these countries on Saturday at various sessions on the last day of the Indian Ocean Conference-IOC being held in a local hotel of the capital city.

On Saturday, the last day of the two-day Indian Ocean Conference, the representatives of various countries placed stress on the rules-based international order and establishing a free, open and safe Indian Ocean region.

The representatives of the US, Japan and Australia expressed their concern about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the conflict centering South China Sea. They said that it is important to establish partnership among the various countries in order to promote national sovereignty and political independence.

This two-day conference has been organised by the foreign ministries of Bangladesh and India with support from the Indian research institute India Foundation and Singapore's S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahariar Alam conducted the third of the four sessions on the last day of the conference.

Speaking at this session, Japan's parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affair Takagi Kei said is implementing the plan to start up an industrial zone supply system centering the Matarbari deep sea port. That can connect South Chattogram with India's northeast region by means of roads, bridges and river routes. Japan is working with Bangladesh to improve the investment environment here and attract investors to the country. After all, Bangladesh is being considered the centre point of the Bay of Bengal.

Takagi Kei said, Japan has decided to provide Bangladesh and other like-minded countries of the Indian Ocean region with support under OSA (Official Security Assistance) in order to bolster the security of the region. This is a new initiative. He said, "Alongside strengthening our economic activities, this region must certainly be safe and stable."

Speaking at the same session, Australia's assistant minister for foreign affairs Tim Watts said that Australia is strengthening its diplomatic relations with the countries of the Indian Ocean region. He said Australia wants to establish a rules-based, free and open Indian Ocean region, which is very important for geostrategic and economic regions. He placed importance on building up a peaceful and planned region by setting up an extensive and effective regional framework.

Also speaking at this session were the UAE assistant minister for economic and commercial trade affairs Saeed Mubarak al-Hajeri, Iran's foreign ministry advisor Sayed Rasul Musavi and Vietnam's deputy foreign minister Do Hung Viet.

Earlier the second session was moderated by member of the India Foundation's board of directors, MJ Akbar.

In her virtual presentation at the session, US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman said, "Through our work with the US Congress on regional maritime initiative, we want to provide funds of USD 6 million for partnership with Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. These funds will boost the capacity to apply laws in the South Asian sub-region of the Indian Ocean." She said that partnership is vital for maritime security and that they wanted to put India's leadership in the forefront particularly to resist piracy, inspection of the specialised economic zones, and disaster management.

Bhutan's foreign minister Tandi Dorji said that countries of the region must have respect for each other's sovereignty, solidarity and politics while working together.

Also speaking at the event were Nepal's foreign minister Narayan Prakash Saud and Seychelles' home minister Charles E Fonseca. Oman's foreign minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hammud Albusaidi joined virtually from London.

Bangladesh has a vision of an Indian Ocean region that is free, open, peaceful, safe and inclusive. This will ensure growth for all. Bangladesh is committed to work with all regional partners to this end
Masud bin Momen, foreign secretary

The first session held in the morning was conducted by India's former minister and chairman of the India Foundation board of directors, Suresh Prabhu. Speaking at the session, minister of the Singapore prime minister's office, Maliki bin Osman said that the position of Bangladesh and Singapore in the politics of this region is complicated and dialogue is required to resolve the problems.

Sri Lanka's minister for ports, shipping and aviation, Nimal Siripala De Silva, said that certain countries required security due to their geographical location. The responsibility for the security of the region must be shared among the countries. Interaction must be stepped up among the countries in order to benefit from the massive economy of the ocean.

Others speaking at this session included Madagascar's defence minister Josoa Rakotoarijaona.

The closing session was moderated by India's foreign secretary (East) Sourav Kumar. Deputy assistant secretary of state Afreen Akhter said that the climate crisis was being felt severely in this region. Increasing temperatures and the rising sea level were leading to coastal erosion, floods and extreme weather conditions. The US was working to ensure investment and resources to help the countries tackle this problem.

In the closing speech, foreign secretary Masud bin Momen said, Bangladesh has a vision of an Indian Ocean region that is free, open, peaceful, safe and inclusive. This will ensure growth for all. Bangladesh is committed to work with all regional partners to this end.