Maintaining peace in Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal essential for region’s economic progress and security, says Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said the 1.1 million Rohingyas, who were given shelter in Bangladesh after they fled from Myanmar in the face of persecution, were not only a threat to the security for this country but also the region.
“I urge the world community to take appropriate action, realising the gravity of the threat,” she said, while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the three-day Dhaka Global Dialogue, reports UNB.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), a government think-tank, and India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF) jointly organized the dialogue at hotel InterContinental Dhaka in the capital.
“Growth, development and Indo-Pacific” is the theme of the dialogue, where over 150 international participants are taking part for keynote presentations, panel discussions, speed talks and live casts.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and ORF President Samir Saran also spoke at the program. BIISS Director General AKM Abdur Rahman delivered the welcome speech.
Prime Minister Hasina said the current century was being considered as the “Century of Asia” in terms of socio-economic development and prosperity, adding: “I think that peace and harmony must be maintained for the prosperity of the region.”
She said poverty was the common enemy of the countries of this region. “Therefore, the main goal of all our activities should be directed to eradicate people's poverty and ensure their comfortable lives with economic development.”
She said Bangladesh was geographically a country ashore of the Bay of Bengal and as such of the Indian Ocean. “This ocean has huge significance for various reasons. Indian Ocean consists of a number of vital maritime routes, which contribute significantly to the largest economies of Asia.”
Half of the global container shipment and 80% of global fuel trade pass through the Indian Ocean, she said, while 16.8% of the global reserve of oil and 27.9% of natural gas were in this ocean. Also, 28% of the total fisheries are collected from Indian Ocean.
“Indian Ocean, being the source of immense resources and the part of strategically important seaways, is thus considered very important,” Hasina added.
Blue Economy and regional peace
In the area of maritime boundary and maritime economy, Bangladesh believed that strong competition among each other or “zero-sum game” will not be helpful in flourishing the Blue Economy of the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean, rather would act as a stumbling block in ensuring security and stability of this region, said the prime minister.
“I also think that in order to extract maritime resources sustainably as well as for the durable development of the Blue Economy, the relations between coastal countries need to be cooperative, amicable, dignified and equitable,” she said.
She said Bangladesh was always active to enhance peaceful and cooperative relations in the region of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
“Bangladesh has resolved its maritime boundary disputes in a peaceful manner with its neighbours India and Myanmar. I think this can be an example for the world. Such cooperative approach and efforts by us in resolving crises can be a lesson for other regions,” she said.
Hasina said if there were neighbours, there would be some problems that can be resolved through discussions and friendly relations, not by quarrelling.
She said different threats like piracy, armed robbery and terrorist attacks in coastal and maritime areas, human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling, were existent in Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal region, and everyone need to collectively address these unconventional risks.
Addressing Monday’s event, Sheikh Hasina said: “Excessive extraction of resources, including fisheries, as well as various pollutions is jeopardising the maritime environment.”
She noted that pollution and excessive extraction of marine resources were destroying the ecologies in the sea, damaging the overall environment of the world.
“As a result, threats are being created for human health and livelihood. But I believe that it is not possible for a single country to resolve these crises. In order to resolve all these problems, I call upon all concerned countries to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation as well as partnerships.”
She said Bangladesh believed that such cooperation was needed to be inclusive for all and with the aim of everyone’s development and security.
The prime minister said there were a total of 40 developing countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, where 35% of the global population lives. There are six countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal, and few more countries like Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Malaysia and Singapore also have important impact of the Bay on their economies despite not being at the coast.
“The economies of the countries ashore of or dependent on the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and the lives of their people are hugely influenced by the ocean and the sea. The resources, environment, ecology and security of the ocean and the sea directly affect the economy and the security of these nations,” she added.
Therefore, she said, peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal was essential for the economic progress and security of these countries.
Bangladesh and the seas
Hasina said the sea played an extremely important role in Bangladesh’s economy, and for many reasons Bangladesh puts high priority on the Indian Ocean as well as on Bay of Bengal.
Firstly, she said, 90% of total external trade of Bangladesh was conducted through maritime routes. “The security and stability of these maritime routes is very important for the economic stability of Bangladesh.”
Secondly, Bangladesh’s absolute sovereignty had been established over an area of 118,813 square kms in the Bay after the reconciliation of maritime boundaries with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, she said.
"These huge maritime areas, including 200 nautical miles, can be a source of huge resources for Bangladesh. The utilisation of these resources for the economic development of the country largely depends on the stability of this region," added the prime minister.
Thirdly, she said, the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean contain huge fisheries as well as mineral and other resources apart from natural gas.
“Through proper sustainable planning and with collective and sincere efforts, these resources can be utilised for the sustainable development of the countries of this region.”
She said: “A study shows that the tentative amount of resources that can be collected from the maritime area of Bangladesh is almost equal to the tentative amount of resources Bangladesh produces on its land.”