On 9 June, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the international conference “The Indian Ocean - A Maritime Region on the Rise”, organised by the Federal Foreign Office in collaboration with the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Representatives from the region, Europe and the United States have been invited. The conference is intended to raise awareness of the growing significance of the Indian Ocean and explore new forms of cooperation on matters of foreign and economic affairs.
“It is high time that Germany and Europe paid more attention to the Indian Ocean region”. With these words Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the Indian Ocean Conference at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. He explained that people often referred to the “Pacific Pivot”, the upwards trend in the Pacific region, but that the Indian Ocean, too, had been a common cultural and economic space for more than 2000 years.
A 2000‑year‑old cultural and economic space
“In days gone by merchant ships crossed the Indian Ocean. Goods, people and ideas moved freely between ancient cultural centres along its shores: from East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, via the Persian Gulf, to South Asia and South‑East Asia.” Steinmeier expressed his conviction that the Indian Ocean could experience another era of this kind of peace, exchange and cooperation, but that people would have to work hard to achieve it.
And that is the reason why all the participants have come to Berlin: representatives from the spheres of politics, business, academia and civil society from the Indian Ocean region, the United States and Europe. They will be discussing topics such as maritime security and new trade routes in various expert workshops and panels. The guests, who come from coastal states as diverse as Mozambique, Australia, Yemen and India, also want to consider new forms of cooperation in the areas of foreign and economic policy.
Challenges and opportunities in the region
In Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s view, the region harbours vast potential: already the area around the Indian Ocean is home to one third of the world’s population, and trade is booming - two thirds of German exports also cross the Indian Ocean. At the same time, he conceded that the region faces major challenges: ten of the 20 most fragile states, he said, bordered onto the Indian Ocean, and 70% of the world’s natural disasters occurred here.
To sum up, the Foreign Minister stated: “Whether we are coastal states or island states, whether we are talking about China, the United States, Europe or Germany - all of us have an interest in a peaceful and flourishing Indian Ocean Region.” The Indian Ocean Conference is designed to be a catalyst for cooperation on elaborating prospects for the region - with the support of Germany, partners in Europe and throughout the world.