Keeping the growing influence of China over the Indian Ocean, a crucial maritime trade route, Bangladesh is the venue of the sixth Indian Ocean Conference.

The two days conference will be organized by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina later today (Friday May 12, 2023) and will be attended by top leaders as well as ministers and senior officers from Indian Ocean Rim countries and these will include representatives from BIMSTEC, SAARC and others. President of Mauritius, Prithvirajsing Roopun and Vice President of Maldives Faisal Naseem have reached Dhaka to participate in the conference.

The conference comes close at the heels of the Bangladesh government announcing its ‘Indo-Pacific Outlook’ officially. “The overarching goal of Bangladesh’s recent Indo-Pacific Outlook is to enhance the country’s ties with the US and West, India for engagement in this region, accelerate economic growth, and address common issues shared by the other nations. This highlighted Bangladesh’s geo-political standpoint on the region as well as its objectives to move forward as a nonalignment foreign policy,” Gautam Lahiri, a senior journalist and Bangladesh commentator says.

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar who reached Dhaka on Thursday is set to deliver a keynote address at the IOC. He has already called on the Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and conveyed greetings on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the level of bilateral cooperation in various fields and also talked about the regional economy amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The conference is being organized by the Indian Foundation in association with India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Bangladesh and S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore.

“The endeavor is to bring critical states and principal maritime partners of the region together on a common platform to deliberate upon the prospects of regional cooperation for Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR),” according to the official statement issued ahead of EAM’s visit to Dhaka.

Why Bangladesh?

“As the conference is being held in Dhaka, India has given importance to Bangladesh as a focal point to strategize the future road map of cooperation in maritime security,” the Bangladesh commentator says.

“Bangladesh, is handling the Chinese predicament intelligently because its goal is to engage structurally rather than militarily. The Chinese ambassador to Dhaka has already stated that many of Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific outlook concepts are similar to his country’s,” Gautam Lahiri tells Financial Express Online.

Adding, “In this conference Dhaka is expected to clarify its position in the Indo-Pacific region through Indo-Pacific Outlook to take the position of regional leader, rather than joining any political bloc. This will help in taking the trilateral relations between India, US and Bangladesh to the next level and Dhaka could gain New Delhi’s trust as India is an active member of the Indo-Pacific alliance.

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