PM seeks enhanced maritime cooperation among IORA nations

JAKARTA, March 7, 20 17 (BSS) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) leaders to dedicate themselves to strengthening maritime cooperation for a peaceful and prosperous Indian Ocean, exploring seas for common benefit of the region having coastlines with the world's third largest ocean.

"Let's set sail together," she said delivering her statement in the general debate on "Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean Rim" at the IORA Leaders' Summit at Jakarta Convention Centre in the Indonesian capital here.

The premier particularly 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 adding 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," she said.

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," Sheikh Hasina said.

Sheikh 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.

Noting that connectivity is critical for peace and development, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh attaches high priorities to connectivity.

"We would like to connect not only physically but also connect through ideas, innovation, trade, finance, culture and tourism. More importantly, we would like to connect human minds to build peaceful and prosperous societies," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said climate change appeared as one of the most challenging issues and "in spite of our efforts, we still remain hostage of adverse impacts of climate change".

"And that means we are advancing towards an alarming rise in the sea

level," she said.

Sheikh Hasina referred to a scientific prediction that with one meter rise in the sea level Bangladesh will lose one third of its most valuable agricultural land which would also displace about 18 million people.

"We did not create global warming but we are its worst sufferers. The need to ensure climate justice is a matter we take very seriously," she said.

Pointing out that today is a memorable day for Bangladesh the premier said Father of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered his historic speech at Suhrawardhy Udyan in Dhaka in 1971.

"Bangabandhu delivered his historic speech that inspired the people of Bangladesh to fight for independence. I respectfully remember the invaluable contribution of Bangabandhu and pay my tribute to the brave martyrs who sacrificed their lives for our freedom," she said.

Earlier, the prime minister attended the opening session on Adoption of the Agenda and Programme of Work, Summary of Reports and the session on Adoption and Signing of the Outcome Document of the Summit"

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)