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Bangladesh for free, inclusive Indian Ocean

Dhaka to host meeting of IORA Council of Ministers Wednesday

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 15 November, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
Bangladesh for free, inclusive Indian Ocean

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said Bangladesh wants to see an open, free, peaceful and inclusive Indian Ocean instead of any unilateral dominance.

“Indian Ocean is a huge issue. We’ve a policy that the Indian Ocean will be open, free, peaceful and inclusive. We don’t want to see any unilateral dominance in the Indian Ocean,” he said while addressing a press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday.

Bangladesh will host the 21st meeting of the Council of Ministers (COM) of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in Dhaka on Wednesday as it takes over the IORA chairmanship for the first time in 24 years.

The COM will be preceded by the two-day 23rd meeting of its Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) beginning today.

The foreign minister said the IORA, under the leadership Bangladesh, will be able to make remarkable progress and address the challenges of maritime safety and security.

During its chairmanship (2021-2023), he said, Bangladesh will move together with the 23 member states as a region and address all the challenges by capitalising on their strengths and turning weaknesses into strength to place the IORA in the world map as one of the most effective and dignified organisations.

Momen said Bangladesh will prioritise capacity building of small island developing states (SIDS), least developed countries (LDCs) and developing states with the help of the 23 member states and nine dialogue partners.

Over 15 member states, including ministerial level delegations from 11 countries, are expected to join the COM in person.

Another 8-10 ministers/vice ministers/deputy ministers are expected to join it virtually.

In total, around 80 delegates are coming to Dhaka to participate in the meetings. They all are expected to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesh has been elected as the IORA chair for the first time for 2021-2023 period. “We’re assuming the chairmanship with the theme ‘Harnessing the opportunities of Indian Ocean for sustainable and inclusive development’,” Momen said.

The IORA has six priority and two focus areas namely Maritime Safety and Security, Fisheries Management, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Disaster Risk Management, Tourism & Cultural Exchanges, Academic, Science and Technological Cooperation, Blue Economy and Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Given widespread interest about the Indo-Pacific region, the foreign minister said, “We expect that the IORA will chalk out its own vision of the Indo-Pacific, a vision for a free, open, peaceful, secure and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on international law and with shared prosperity for all, so that we promote sustainable blue economy in the region.”

Keeping that in mind, he said, Bangladesh will propose ‘IORA-Dhaka Development Initiative (IORA-DDI)’ to enhance capacity building through offering practical training, on-the-job learning and physical demonstration in the areas where they have specialisation and expertise. “We’ll seek assistance of our dialogue partners for making this initiative an important tool for ensuring inclusive development in the region.”

Momen said Bangladesh is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change. “Similarly, the Indian Ocean region, tagged as ‘world’s hazard belt’, is always at the forefront of vulnerability to natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. Climate change is real and we realised even more that we have to face the reality.”

The Indian Ocean region is warming at a higher rate, which means the relative sea level can also increase over the regions and it will contribute to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-level areas and coastal erosion, he said.

Considering the gravity of the crisis and unifying role of the IORA in this regard, the foreign minister said, Bangladesh will propose a platform for climate change within the framework of the regional organisation.

In the presence of 12 ministerial level delegations, he said, the IORA meeting is expected to showcase Bangladesh’s hospitality and offer its good image. “Becoming the chair of an important regional organisation is also a matter of pride for us.”

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and Secretary of the Maritime Affairs Unit of Foreign Ministry Md Khurshid Alam were also present at the press briefing.