An international naval exercise involving 32 countries and 41 warships is being hosted in the Bay of Bengal on Monday and Tuesday by the Bangladesh Navy.
Bangladesh has arranged the international exercise to increase regional cooperation between the 23 member states and nine observer nations of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
The IONS Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise 2017 (IMMSAREX 17) will comprise drills related to fire-fighting, sea accidents and rescue, as well as deep sea searches for missing ships, searches for missing aircraft, and other emergency rescue operations.
Scheduled to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Bay of Bengal, the exercise will involve 41 naval warships including five from India, two from Iran, and one each from Indonesia and China; three maritime patrol aircraft; and four helicopters.
With Bangladesh Navy Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nizamuddin Ahmed serving as the forum’s current chair, the 2017 multilateral exercise was inaugurated by Bangladesh President Md Abdul Hamid in a ceremony held on Monday at Hotel Royal Tulip, adjacent to Inani Beach at Cox’s Bazar.
Attendees included Bangladesh Army Chief General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq and Bangladesh Air Force’s Air Chief Marshal Abu Esrar, Myanmar’s Navy Chief Admiral Tin Aung San, and Malaysia’s Navy Chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Hj Ahmad Badaruddin.
“We must come to realise that the safety of our own seafarers is not achievable without a collective sense of responsibilities and sharing of resources,” the president said while addressing the ceremony as the chief guest. “Therefore, we shall have to work together as a single entity to that end.”
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Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid watches The IONS Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise 2017 (IMMSAREX 17) in progress in the Bay of Bengal on November 27, 2017 | Focus Bangla
The IONS was formed in 2008 to ensure maritime security and develop friendly relations among the members, as well as to stop terrorism, smuggling and other criminal activity.
The 23 IONS members are: Bangladesh, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
The nine observer nations are: China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Netherlands, Russia and Spain.
In his speech, the Bangladesh president highlighted the importance of promoting cooperation among the Indian Ocean littorals in order to respond to natural disasters more effectively.
“It has become apparent through numbers of incidents that the safety of lives at the sea is a regional responsibility,” he said.
President Hamid also said the emergence of the “Blue Economy” concept in the Indian Ocean region has revitalised the ventures of the littorals in the maritime domain.
“The Indian Ocean has the greatest strategic and economic value while it also carries huge prospects and potentials to facilitate maritime trade and commerce,” he said.
President Hamid credited the IONS as one of the forums which has been “playing a pivotal role to develop cooperation among the nations of the region”. He said that the geographical borders divide the countries, but “bridges of friendship across the ocean can unite the countries together”.
Rear Admiral M Ashraful Haque, commander of Bangladesh Navy Fleet, upheld the different dimensions of IMMSAREX during the inauguration ceremony.
In his role as current IONS chairman, Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Nizamuddin Ahmed described the forum as “time-befitting."
“To ensure the security in the bay and oceans, we have to work together for our own country and neighbouring countries’ prosperity,” he said.
Indian Navy Chief Sunil Lanba described the oceans as “economic highways” in his speech at the inauguration.
He said: “We have to face the challenges and difficulties in the oceans globally (and) tighten the friendship amongst the bordering countries.”
Following the inauguration programme, the Bangladesh president visited the fleet review by helicopter before inaugurating a colourful beach carnival that showcased the culture and heritage of Bangladesh. Later, President Abdul Hamid handed over the prize to the winners of IONS Essay Writing Competition 2016.