The US Embassy in Colombo, in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), convened a gathering of scholars from across the Indo-Pacific on Monday, the 16th, for a significant conference focusing on “Ocean Security: South Asia and the Indian Ocean.”
The conference brought together an array of international researchers with expertise in Indian Ocean affairs, covering a wide spectrum of topics, including environmental security, regional cooperation, governance, peace-building, blue economy, trade, and ocean security research.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, commenced the event with her opening remarks. She commended the network of South Asian scholars dedicated to studying the Indian Ocean. She also underscored Sri Lanka’s crucial role in the region’s blue economy, stating, “Investment in sustainable blue economies is a force multiplier, spurring economic development and demonstrating how environmental protection and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. The United States is committed to ensuring a prosperous blue economy for Sri Lanka and other nations across the Indo-Pacific. Since the launch of the Indo-Pacific Strategy in 2022, the US Government has announced the provision of over US$ 2 billion in foreign assistance in the region dedicated to Indo-Pacific priorities.”
Ambassador Chung also highlighted the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. She emphasized, “the United States recognizes Sri Lanka’s right to assert its own aspirations and objectives, to be recognized as an equal on the world stage, and to make decisions aligned with its values and the needs and interests of its people. Indeed, those principles help to guide our bilateral relationship.”
Delivering the keynote address, Nilanthi Samaranayake, a visiting expert from the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., emphasized the economic significance of the Indian Ocean region. She stated, “The Indian Ocean derives its importance from its economics, which creates converging goals. The region effectively serves as a highway, connecting the bustling waters of the Pacific through the Malacca Strait and across to the Middle East and African Straits of Hormuz and Babel-Mandeb and the Mozambique Channel. The Indian Ocean sees significant traffic of hydrocarbons, containers, and bulk cargo. Due to the economic significance of this region, countries share a common interest in keeping the sea lanes open and safe.”
The conference witnessed the active participation of representatives from diplomatic missions throughout the Indo-Pacific, Sri Lankan Government officials, scholars, and members of the Sri Lankan Military.