Think Tank (3/2023)
(L-R) Mr Kevin Chen, Mr Eddie Lim, Ms Sheela Pillai, Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Mr Lawrence Anderson, Dr Sinderpal Singh
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The 6th Indian Ocean Conference: IOC 2023
12 May 2023

The India Foundation, in association with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, and RSIS, held the 6th Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka on 12 and 13 May 2023. With the theme of “Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future,” conference participants discussed key issues that affect the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Many high-profile leaders spoke at the event, including the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and the Second Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman.

Geopolitics underpinned the discussions at the Conference, with multiple speakers bringing up the disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only did this hamper recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic due to supply chain woes and food security crises, but global faith in globalisation as an unstoppable trend was also shaken.

Speakers also touched on Sino-US tensions, and ASEAN and the South China Sea, while going into detail on the seriousness of the developmental challenges posed by climate change to the region. IOR countries noted how they needed to walk a tightrope between protecting the environment and improving their economy, calling for the closer adoption of green and blue economic principles to attract investors. Simultaneously, it was noted that environmental crises can have unexpected political outcomes, considering the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and its impact on the Free Aceh Movement.

Members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) were well-represented at the Conference. Japan, Australia, and the US highlighted their multi-million-dollar investments into regional infrastructure and clean energy projects. For example, the US International Development Finance Corporation approved up to US$500 million in debt financing for First Solar in India.

The RSIS delegation was headed by Mr Lawrence Anderson, Senior Fellow. The delegation included Dr Sinderpal Singh, Senior Fellow and Assistant Director, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS); Mr Eddie Lim, Head of Outreach; and Mr Kevin Chen, Associate Research Fellow, United States Programme. Dr Singh delivered a presentation during a session on the “Rise of a Peaceful Indo-Pacific for a Resilient Global Future,” speaking broadly about inclusive regionalism, the need for a Sino-US grand bargain, and blue economy issues.

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