Linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Bay of Bengal occupies a central position in relation to global economic ﬂows in a way that few other regions do, the foreign minister says
An effective information exchange network may be considered and agreed by Indo-Pacific states to ensure freedom and safety of navigation as well as overcome overall maritime challenges in the Indian Ocean, said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday.
"We look forward to having a new world with more cooperation and connections for responding to challenges," he added.
The foreign minister further said wide and dynamic regional cooperation will develop if there is a clear quest for more cultural, economic, political and even strategic emancipation from the large foreign powers and among regional organizations.
Momen was addressing the regional conference on “Connectivity in the Indo-Pacific (Ocean) Reconnecting peoples, facilitating human development for prosperity of all from the Bay of Bengal” held at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Ambassador Tariq A Karim, director, Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies; Prof Tanweer Hasan, vice-chancellor of IUB; Ito Naoki, ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh; Vikram Doraiswami, high commissioner of India to Bangladesh; and Ambassador Tenzin Lekphell, secretary general of BIMSTEC Dhaka were present.
Momen said the Indian Ocean is rich in untapped natural resources, including some of the world’s largest reserves of gas and other seabed minerals. There is also an increasing belief that there are oil reserves.
Linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Bay of Bengal occupies a central position in relation to global economic ﬂows in a way that few other regions do. As a strategic funnel to the Malacca Straits and Lombok Strait, the region has been an important location in the strategic calculations of the great powers of the world and has grown in strategic importance for China and Japan, and India as well, the foreign minister said
He said devising a comprehensive strategy for one of the most diverse, complex, and contested regions in the world is by no means an easy task, and no individual or organization can comprehensively predict the best ways to grapple with Indo-Pacific Ocean strategy in the near future with pinpoint accuracy.
Indo-Pacific ocean construct may be governed by peace and prosperity of the Region focussing on socio-economic development of the region to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said.
"It should also ensure establishing a meaningful relationship with the other countries in the Indo Pacific to promote accelerated technological change in order to explore and exploit the oceanic resources to empower the youth and women; promote sustainable and equitable growth and decent employment in the region," Momen said.
He added that Bangladesh may broaden and deepen alliance cooperation and encourage the possible economic and security engagement with the littoral states under the umbrella of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Manmohan Parkash, country director for Bangladesh at the Asian Development Bank, echoed Momen in saying that the Bay of Bengal is a strategic point that connects the Indian and pacific oceans.
"This “great middle Bay” has been a historic trade and maritime route for thousands of years ... Today, we are here to recreate what was then the most happening region of the world, as the gateway to the Indo-Pacific region, promoting prosperity through trade, investment, human capital development, and people to people contact," he added.
"The Bay of Bengal is a critical economic highway of the world as it handles about 66% of oil shipments for Japan, China, and India. Over 33% of the world's bulk cargo pass through the Bay. These numbers show that the Bay of Bengal is a conduit of global integration. However, the key question is how the region can benefit from this and contribute to the global wealth and wellbeing?" Parkash asked.
"The region needs to reorient its policies to enhance its trade competitiveness, build human capital, develop infrastructure, all of which will help it attract investment, and create prosperity for its people," he suggested.
Bangladesh would be taking over as the chair this year and at the same time strengthen Bangladesh’s Comprehensive and Strategic partnership with other countries which are also vital for both to pursue extensive bilateral interests.