The 6th Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka 2023: Agenda and Importance


The 6th Indian Ocean Conference is scheduled to take place on May 12-13 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This significant event is being organized by the Bangladesh foreign ministry in association with India Foundation, a renowned research center affiliated with the Indian foreign ministry. The conference aims to bring together states and principal maritime partners of the Indian Ocean region on a common platform to discuss and deliberate upon the prospects of regional cooperation for “Security and Growth for All in the Region.”

Since its founding in 2016, the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) has become the premier consultative forum for nations in the region regarding regional issues. The Conference aims to bring together key maritime partners and regional states on a common stage to discuss the potential for regional collaboration. The Conference’s inaugural event took place in Singapore in 2016. Over 300 attendees from 22 nations, including ministers, political figures, diplomats, intellectuals in strategic fields, academics, and members of the media, attended. Representatives from more than 40 nations attended the second IOC, which was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2017. Delegates from 44 nations participated in the third IOC, which was held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2018. In 2019, the Maldives played home to the fourth iteration of the IOC, which featured speakers from 36 different nations and delegates from 40 other nations. In 2021, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, hosted the fifth IOC, which featured 37 speakers from 21 different nations.

There exist several rationales for convening a conference under the given circumstances. First, the Indian Ocean region (IOR) has become a key discourse in terms of technology, economics, and strategy. A key component of global strategic thinking, the region is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In order to discuss and reflect on issues that influence the region’s peace, prosperity, and partnership, it is crucial to bring together stakeholder nations. Second, the IO conference gives nations in the area a forum for cooperation and in-depth discussions on a variety of topics, such as economic development, sustainable development, climate change, and maritime security. Countries can exchange best practices, stories, and information during the conference about how to address regional challenges that are common. Third, the IO meeting offers nations a chance to deepen and develop new international understandings. The conference gives participants the chance to find common interests, investigate fresh opportunities for collaboration, and create collaborative projects to tackle common problems. In a nutshell, an IOR conference is crucial because it gives countries in the area a forum for functional discussion, collaboration on shared problems, and partnership development for the enhancement of the region’s peace, prosperity, and partnership.

However, the Indian Ocean region (IOR) has emerged as a key player in the evolving global order, with its strategic, military, economic, and technological gravity. The 6th Indian Ocean Conference will bring together stakeholders to discuss the theme of “Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership for a Resilient Future.” Maintaining peace in the region is crucial, given the non-traditional challenges of bio-hazards, cyber warfare, and maritime piracy. The region is pegged to rise as the most economically prosperous region of the century, with responsible growth and development while living in harmony with nature. Partnerships in the IOR will be more forward-looking, constructive, and collaborative, with opportunities opening up for countries to collaborate in multiple formats on carbon planning, green financing, development of the blue economy, and public healthcare and education. India Foundation, in association with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Singapore, is organizing the conference to reinforce a proactive and outcome-oriented approach to strengthen regional cooperation and development partnership in the region.

The decision to host the conference in Dhaka was approved in principle by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also expected to inaugurate the two-day event.  The upcoming 6th Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka will revolve around the theme to bring peace, prosperity, and partnership for a resilient future.” The conference aims to bring together key stakeholders of the region, including foreign dignitaries such as the president of Mauritius, foreign ministers of Bhutan and Sri Lanka, and the vice-minister of Japan, who have already confirmed their participation. Their presence underscores the importance of the conference and highlights the shared commitment towards fostering regional cooperation and development.

Since its inception, the Indian Ocean Conference has played a vital role in facilitating dialogue and collaboration among countries in the region. The 6th Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka is expected to build upon the achievements of its predecessors and set a roadmap for strengthening the Indian Ocean region. The conference will provide an opportunity to deliberate on strategies and initiatives that promote peace. It will also address the need for a resilient future, recognizing the importance of addressing various security challenges, economic opportunities, and environmental concerns in the region.

Overall, the conference in Dhaka signifies the commitment of the Indian Ocean region to foster regional cooperation, address common challenges, and promote collective growth. The presence of foreign dignitaries and key stakeholders from the region underscores the importance of this event. It is an opportunity to exchange ideas, share best practices, and chart a course for a peaceful, prosperous, and resilient future for all countries in the Indian Ocean region.

The Indian Ocean region (IOR), which has a substantial store of natural resources and supply chain trade routes that have become crucial components of global strategic thinking, is developing as the center of geopolitical, military, economic, and technical gravity. The goal of the sixth Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) is to bring together key stakeholder states to discuss and reflect on the theme of “Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future” as mentioned earlier.

Given the conventional and emerging threats of security, biohazards, cyberwarfare, and maritime piracy, maintaining peace in the IOR is crucial to ensuring the emergence of a resilient future. With three of the five fastest developing economies, 64% of the world’s population, 63% of its GDP, and three quarter of the world’s oil supply and 65% of world’s oil reserve, the IOR is predicted to become the most economically affluent region of the century.

The scope of partnerships in the IOR will be more forward-thinking and positive, and there will be many opportunities for nations to work together in various ways on issues like carbon planning and green financing, navigating technological hegemony, developing the blue economy, emerging alternative forms of financing, and collaborating on public healthcare and education. Establishing trustworthy alliances will go a long way toward assuring the management of continuous supply chains via the IOR’s waterways.

Most importantly, as two responsible powers, Bangladesh and India are keen to ensuring the emergence of an IOR that is free, open, inclusive, and governed by norms, supporting a proactive and goal-oriented strategy for enhancing regional cooperation and development partnerships in the area.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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