(Text of Dr Ram Madhav’s Curtain Raiser Address at the Inaugural Session of the 6th Indian Ocean Conference – IOC 2023 – in Dhaka, Bangladesh on May 12-13, 2023)
Namaskar, Good Evening and Shubho Sandhya!
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Welcome to the 6th edition of the annual Indian Ocean Conference, hosted by India Foundation, New Delhi in association with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Bangladesh.
Indian Ocean is the 3rd largest water body on earth, stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca.
It is home to 38 nations and over 2.5 billion people.
Over 30% of the world’s population lives here and a fourth of global economy is situated in this region.
Almost 80% of the world’s oil trade and 60% of the container trade passes through this region.
This region has the uniqueness of being bonded together through a strong cultural and civilisational history. From Indonesia to Iran, and from East Africa to ASEAN, people stand testimony to this historic and cultural connect.
Indian Ocean region has its own distinct character, identity and challenges.
The Indian Ocean Conference, started six years ago, is not an exclusive club or alliance. It is a forum, led by foreign ministers of India, Bangladesh, Singapore and Oman, with the objective of bringing together the leaders “from the region” and make them leaders “of the region”.
It is like the “Indian Ocean Parliament”, where the stakeholders of the region come together to build a peaceful, free, prosperous and inclusive Indian Ocean region to which the destinies of all our nations are tied.
We have ministerial representation from over 20 countries in this year’s conference while another 15 countries are represented by officials and scholars.
I extend a warm welcome to all the leaders, scholars and delegates to this 6th Indian Ocean Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
There couldn’t have been a better destination for the conference this year than Dhaka. Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman had once declared his country’s mission as “friendship with all and malice towards none”. This conference will be a befitting tribute to him in his centenary year.
We are very thankful to his able daughter, a bold and visionary leader, whom many describe as the Iron Lady of South Asia, Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for agreeing to host the conference in Dhaka this year. Under her leadership, Bangladesh has transformed into a rising regional economic power.
Thank you for your leadership, Ma’am! and we hope that you would soon break Margaret Thatcher’s record to become the longest serving female head of the state in the world.
We are honoured to have the President of another important Indian Ocean power, Mauritius, H.E. Prithvirajsing Roopun amidst us. He is not just a politician but also a thought-leader.
Thank you for your presence Excellency!
H. E. Faisal Naseem, Vice President of Maldives, is a young and rising star of the island nation’s governance. He was with us last year at Abu Dhabi in the IOC-2021.
Thank you for returning, Excellency!
H.E. Dr. S Jaishankar, the foreign minister of India is a household name in the diplomatic circles in the world. A seasoned diplomat and a leader with clarity and vision, Dr Jaishankar has been an integral part of the IOC right from its inception in 2016.
Thank you for being there as the mentor of this pathbreaking initiative, Excellency!
IOC’s first ever conference was held in Singapore in 2016. Since then, H.E. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the foreign minister of Singapore has been an integral part of the series. We miss him this year due to a clashing ASEAN event.
But we are delighted to have his colleague, and a senior minister in the Singapore cabinet, H.E. Dr Maliki Osman with us today.
Another important leader, who will be missed today is the foreign minister of Bangladesh, H.E. Dr A K Abdul Momen. He is unable to come due to health reasons.
However, we are delighted to have his able colleague and a longtime associate of the India Foundation and also an integral part of the Indian Ocean Conference series, H.E. Md Shahriar Alam, Minister of State, External Affairs, Government of Bangladesh with us this evening.
On behalf of the India Foundation, I welcome all of you Excellencies…