Dhaka – Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for strengthening maritime cooperation among the nations in the Indian Ocean Rim to explore seas for common benefits.
Hasina made the call while addressing the general debate on “Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean Rim” at the Indian Ocean Rim Association Leaders’ Summit at Jakarta Convention Centre in the Indonesian capital.
“Let’s set sail together,” she said as leaders from 21 countries having coastline with the world’s third largest ocean attended the summit.
Hasina also proposed setting up of a maritime university in Bangladesh to be called Indian Ocean Technical and Vocational University to create a pool of skilled mariners for the region.
Dhaka considered IORA as a “natural habitat for “our efforts to project our aspirations jointly with the nations of the region and beyond.
“Our quest for development through oceans and seas is a part of our larger efforts to transform Bangladesh along with the rim countries. Let’s dedicate ourselves to strengthening maritime cooperation for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indian Ocean,” Hasina was quoted to have said by state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.
She said being a littoral country of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean Bangladesh firmly believed that future economic prosperity, food security and social well-being largely depend on sustainable use of its marine resources.
“As such, we integrated SDG-14 in our 7th Five Year Plan and renewed our focus towards blue economy,” the Bangladesh premier said adding “the peaceful delimitation of Bangladesh’s maritime boundary with both of its neighbours ushered in a new era of economic opportunities for us”.
Sheikh Hasina also called upon the IORA leaders to ensure safety and rights of mariners and other oceangoing professionals saying despite their global reputation for skills and dedicated workmanship, seamen and marine engineers sometimes face unwarranted challenges.
“Our ability to reap economic benefits from the ocean depends largely on our capacity to rise above the challenges in the maritime domain,” she said.
The prime minister said Indian Ocean was of paramount significance for global security, connectivity, peace and prosperity while “it constitutes the lifeline of our globalized world providing passage to half of its container ships, one third of the bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of its oil shipments”.
She thanked IORA leadership for adopting the IORA Concord and its Action Plan for strengthening maritime partnership.
“If blue economy were to guide our economics in future then we should use our seas to promote friendship and curb tension in the region, respect freedom of navigation and cooperate through the mechanism of IORA,” she said.
“Blue Economy is now the common interest of all IORA member states,” Hasina said.
Hasina pointed out that Bangladesh adheres to the policy of “zero tolerance” towards terrorism and violent extremism while “our approach, by extension, also encompasses into ensuring maritime safety and security”.
She expressed her hope that the Declaration on Countering Violent Extremism Leading to Terrorism by the IORA would definitely enhance cooperation and coordination among the member countries.
The premier also sought enhanced energy cooperation among IORA nations saying Bangladesh recognizes the positive impact of regional energy cooperation on national endeavors towards sustainable energy exploration.
Bangladesh, she said, already took initiatives to expand power and energy trade with the neighbours and was also developing a renewable energy circuit using ocean and atmospheric forces based on maritime industries.
“We hope that countries of the Indian Ocean region would join us in creating new world of energy security,” she said.