What Is The Importance Of Indian Ocean Conference For Bangladesh? – OpEd


India Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore have seen a lot of curiosity about the Indian Ocean Conference which started in Dhaka. 

The conference is mainly organized with the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean, but it will discuss various important issues in the changing global context. It should be noted that five Indian Ocean Conferences have been held so far. This conference was first started in Singapore in 2016. Later, the fifth conference was held in Sri Lanka in 2017, Vietnam in 2018, Maldives in 2019, United Arab Emirates in 2021. The 6th Conference is going to be held in Dhaka after a gap of one year. In the last six years, the conference has become the premier consultative platform for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries on various issues including peace, security, cooperation, maritime partnership, strategic, geopolitics. President of Mauritius and Indian Foreign Minister in the evening to join the conference yesterday afternoon. S Jaishankar has come to Dhaka. The rest of the guests came to Dhaka by Friday afternoon.

The Sixth International Indian Ocean Conference starts from Friday in the capital Dhaka. About 150 delegates including high-level representatives from 25 countries have participated. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future’ due to the post-Covid situation and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the conference on Friday evening. 

Speaking about the two-day long conference, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that the program is mainly organized for the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean, but it is expected that various important and relevant issues will be discussed in the changing global context. About 150 foreign guests including representatives of D-8, SAARC and BIMSTEC will participate in the conference.

He said, by organizing this conference, it is expected that Bangladesh’s regional political partnership with the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean will be strengthened. From the discussion of this conference, the participating countries will get an idea of what kind of steps to take in the future in view of the ongoing global events. It will be helpful for Bangladesh to deal with various crisis situations and take necessary decisions to overcome them. The Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) started in 2016 and over the past six years has emerged as the ‘flagship consultative forum’ for countries in the region on regional issues.

India recognizes Bangladesh’s potential to play an active role in the Indian Ocean region, as peace and stability in the region is vital for the peace, progress and prosperity of 1.4 billion Indians as well as 1.6 billion Bangladeshis. India sincerely wishes that the time has come for Bangladesh as a major regional power to join forces with India to build a peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive Indian Ocean region, which is a lifeline for both countries.

The Indian Ocean Conference, organized by the Delhi-based India Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of Bangladesh, is not a regional club or alliance. Led by the Presidium of the Foreign Ministers of India, Bangladesh, Singapore and Oman, it is a forum that brings together leaders “from the region” to enhance cooperation.

There can be no better way to pay tribute to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who declared that his country would live on the principle of “friendship with all, enmity with none”.  An Indian analyst Dr. Shakuntala Bhabani  wrote in Kashmir Observer (https://kashmirobserver.net/2023/05/11/strategic-significance-of-6th-indian-ocean-conference/), Sentinel Assam (https://epaper.sentinelassam.com/EditionPage/EPpage .php?edn=Guwahati%20English&isid=THESENTI_GUWE_20230512#Page/5) , Ratopati of Nepal, (https://english.ratopati.com/story/27709) and South Asia Monitor newspapers that the Sixth Indian Ocean Conference in Bangladesh is most importantly being held at a time when the Government of Bangladesh has just officially released the ‘Indo-Pacific Outline’. The main aim of Bangladesh’s recent Indo-Pacific framework is to enhance relations with various countries in the region including the US, India, accelerate economic growth and solve other common problems. Despite widespread support for the Indo-Pacific Strategy, some countries claim that it may only serve to increase regional instability, slow China’s growth, and tilt Bangladesh toward the United States. Bangladesh is hesitant to take any side in the conflict between the United States and its allies and China. But Bangladesh said – not enmity with anyone, but friendship with everyone; It is in this policy that the outlines of the Indo-Pacific have been announced.

The Analyst said Bangladesh’s foreign ministry announced a new Indo-Pacific outline to outline Bangladesh’s geopolitical vision in the region, as well as its goals to pursue a neutral foreign policy. In this, Bangladesh can gain confidence from the Indian government, as India is an active member of the Indo-Pacific Alliance. On the other hand, Bangladesh has intelligently dealt with China’s various demands. But it is true, Bangladesh has largely set an example for other coastal countries with its Indo-Pacific contours. Countries like Bangladesh can adopt the method, because it is ‘balanced’.

It aims to strengthen regional economic cooperation, ensure maritime trade security, combat climate change, create investment opportunities and introduce new strategic alliances with other countries. Their vision aims to help advance the goal of an open, free and fair Indo-Pacific region by upholding international order, trade freedom, prosperity and the sovereign equality of all countries. Bangladesh also wants to boost the economy by increasing investment and trade, especially in terms of public investment and technological networking.

The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. When the bloc was formed, the regional and global political scene was relatively peaceful. China, the United States, India, Russia and the European Union had minimal conflicts of interest. It was a time when multilateralism was enjoying a positive vibe in international relations despite their inherent competition. But now the world is gradually polarized and divided on issues of power, wealth and dominance. The Quad-China conflict and the Ukraine war are the ultimate test of the West’s strategic approach to China and Russia. Against this backdrop, India is trying to maintain dominance in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. Again, the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region is now being shaped by new strategic and security initiatives such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QAD), Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Recently, the alliance has become active again due to the increase in smuggling, arms trade and human trafficking in the Indian Ocean region. Maritime security and countering terrorism and other crimes in the Indian Ocean have emerged as part of India’s Indo-Pacific strategy and doctrine to enhance security for all in the region.

Meanwhile, Gautam Lahiri, a journalist from Delhi, said in a report titled ‘RSS to attend Indian Conference in Dhaka’ that ‘the India Foundation’ is an important regional conference in Dhaka.  BD government is trying to impress the world. A group of RSS members came to Dhaka to attend this important international conference organized by India Foundation in collaboration with India Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Dhaka on Thursday to attend the conference on May 12 and 13.

To prepare for the event, Indian Ocean Countries Conference (IOCC), India Foundation Director Alok Bansal and RSS Governing Body Member Ram Madhav met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka. Earlier, Ram Madhav was tasked with handling international affairs by the RSS. However, he remained inactive on this front for several months. Ram Madhav has revived himself to return to the spotlight by organizing this high-profile international event – the ‘India Ocean Countries Conference’. The 17-member delegation from India includes senior RSS leaders including Praful Ketkar, editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Organizer’, former Union Minister MJ Akbar, BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta and advisor to Information and Broadcasting Minister Kanchan Gupta, among whom will be Bansal and Ram Madhav.

Ram Madhav met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the day when India and Bangladesh Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the ‘Friendship’ diesel pipeline from Siliguri to Parvatipur in Bangladesh through video conference. At this time, the Bangladesh government has given importance to this conference.However, In this way, India-US-Bangladesh relations would reach a new level. Bangladesh could gain the trust of the Indian government because India is an active member of the Indo-Pacific alliance.

Jubeda Chowdhury

Jubeda Chowdhury is a freelance writer with a Master's Degree in International Relations from the University of Dhaka.

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