Focus on economic co-op, deescalate security threats: Experts


UNB, Dhaka :
Foreign affairs analysts have sought efforts to focus on economic cooperation and de-escalation of security threats in the Indian Ocean region which is increasingly becoming an area of strategic competition among the big powers.
Transparency and feasibility for cooperation among the regional countries are the fundamentals that can lead to peace and prosperity, they observed.

The experts made the observation at the sixth Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) hosted by the India Foundation and the foreign ministries of Bangladesh and India.
More than 150 representatives, including Mauritius president and ministers from 25 countries are attending the two-day event.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Conference on Friday evening.
Talking to reporters before the formal inauguration, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh does not have any military ambition.
“We want to improve the lives of our people, peace and stability. Our Indo-Pacific Outlook also has a similar vision as well as having friendly relationship with others,” he said.

Indian Ocean is home to one-third of the global population and more than half the world’s oil transits the region.
Almost a quarter of the largest container ports are located in this region, with 15 per cent of the global fisheries stock are there. By 2025, the region should account for 20 per cent of the world GDP.

The foreign policy analysts say the region is becoming much more complex and contested.
Analysts said this is the reality when Indian Ocean faces some of the major challenges including environmental security, human and drug smuggling, while the immense potentials of blue economy largely remain untapped. Sinderpal Singh, senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies of Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said one key way to regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean region is establishing economic corporation and connectivity.

“You can do it one, you can do it the other. This forms habits of cooperation, while security cooperation is normally zero sum,” he said at a session on ‘rise of a peaceful Indo-Pacific for a resilient global future’.


It may not be the case that all the Indian Ocean states come together for a large alliance, but a few countries can work together on certain issues, for example, environment, which will be very useful, he suggested.

Singh suggested that China has been making large-scale investments in this region, and as global power, the US should also make more investments here. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework can be quite effective.

He said the principle that every state is equal, has sovereignty and maintains international law must be maintained by all.
Pankaj Saran, convenor of Indian think tank Centre for Research on Strategic and Security Studies, said peace and prosperity require some basic things that include equal security for all, trust, openness and transparency.

Dr David Brewster, senior research fellow of National Security College at the Australian National University, said there needs to be effective reginal arrangement in the India Ocean region for cooperation and collaboration on the issues, including environmental security, flourishing blue economy etc.

He suggested that small and middle powers of the region forge cooperation and show paths for others to follow.
Bangladesh’s former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said instability in Myanmar and Rohingya crisis are working as blockages behind improving regional connectivity.