Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said 1.1 million Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh were not only a threat to the country’s security, but also to the region’s.
“I urge the world community to take appropriate action realising the gravity of the threat,” she said while inaugurating the three-day “Dhaka Global Dialogue”.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, a government think tank, and India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF) jointly organised the dialogue at Hotel InterContinental in the city.
Over 150 international participants are taking part in the dialogue on the theme “Growth, development and Indo-Pacific”.
The premier said the current century is being considered the “Century of Asia” in terms of socio-economic development and prosperity. “I think that peace and harmony must be maintained for the prosperity of the region.”
Hasina said the main goal of all the activities of the regional countries should be directed towards eradicating poverty and ensuring comfortable life for their people as poverty is their common enemy.
She said Bangladesh is geographically located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and as such on the shore 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 percent of global fuel trade pass through the Indian Ocean, the PM said, adding that 16.8 percent of the global reserve of oil and 27.9 percent of natural gas is situated in this ocean. Besides, 28 percent of the total fisheries are collected from the Indian Ocean.
Indian Ocean, being the source of immense resources and the part of strategically important seaways, is thus considered very important, Hasina said.
In the area of maritime boundary and maritime economy, Bangladesh believes that strong competition among each other will not be helpful in flourishing the Blue Economy of the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean. It will rather act as a stumbling block in ensuring security and stability of the region, the PM mentioned.
She said Bangladesh is always active in enhancing 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.”
The PM said different threats like piracy, armed robbery, and terrorist attacks in coastal and maritime areas, human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling, exist in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal region. These unconventional risks should be addressed collectively.
Hasina said 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.”
The premier said there are a total of 40 developing countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, where 35 percent 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 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.”
Therefore, peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal is essential for the economic progress and security of these countries, she mentioned.
Hasina said the sea plays an extremely important role in Bangladesh’s economy as it is an offshore country, and for many reasons Bangladesh gives high priority to the Indian Ocean as well as to the Bay of Bengal.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and ORF President Samir Saran also spoke at the programme.