Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Launch of Indian Ocean interactive map

  • Speech

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respect to Elders, past and present.

I also acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us today.

And I reaffirm the Australian Government's commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full – Voice, Treaty, and Truth.

Thank you to our hosts, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Australian National University's National Security College.

As Australia's Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has said, we live in “the most challenging strategic circumstances of the post-war period.”

The world faces complex challenges.

Strategic competition is increasing, and domains that were previously considered separate – economic, diplomatic, strategic, military – are converging.

We have seen from Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine that peace is not guaranteed and is becoming harder to maintain.

We know there are real fragilities in the global economy, driving inflation and fears of recession.

And we know that the spectre of climate change looms large.

Indian Ocean states will need to work together to mitigate the impacts of these challenges and contribute to global solutions. 

Australia has an obvious interest in the Indian Ocean.

We have the region's longest Indian Ocean coastline as well as its largest Search and Rescue Zone.

We have the largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the Indian Ocean, over 6.3 million square kilometres.

Australia is committed to playing a leading role in managing the opportunities and challenges in the region over the coming decades.

The Indian Ocean Strategic Map will be an important tool for policymaking and cooperation.

The foundation of good policymaking is understanding, and understanding requires good data.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have developed an interactive tool that helps us understand what is happening in the Indian Ocean more succinctly in greater depth.

The map already included important geographic and economic information about Indian Ocean nations.

Phase 2 of this map – which I am proud the Australian Government has supported – added important data streams such as population density, conventional arms flows, and liquid energy shipments.  

The map shows the huge volume of trade that passes through the region and its critical shipping lanes – accounting for over one-third of the world's bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the world's oil shipments.

And the map presents this information in an accessible way, so that governments, multilateral institutions, think tanks, businesses, NGOs or members of the public can take the information and use it put forward ideas to address the challenges we face.

This information will be the foundation for good policymaking – so we know how to seize the opportunities in our region, whether that is in trade, investment, technology, migration, education, or defence.

The Indian Ocean Strategic Map will also help us cooperate more closely.

It can improve our cooperation in practice.  

For example, visualising the patchwork of interlocking maritime search and rescue areas can assist in rescue coordination and reinforces our commitment to a safe and secure Indian Ocean.

But it can also be a tool to deepen our ties and to bring us closer together.

It displays maritime boundaries and maritime zones as not just a marker of where our countries end, but importantly of where our relationships as neighbours begin.

Australia is very aware of the importance of our relationships.

We are listening to the region, and we're asking all countries, no matter how large or small, to be part of shaping the region they want.

We welcomed the opportunity to host Prime Minister Modi in May for a very successful visit which underscored the deep links between our countries. 

I also appreciated the frank and varied conversations I had during my recent visits to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India, and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

These conversations help us shape a region that is peaceful and predictable, where the countries and peoples of the region can cooperate, trade, and thrive...

… where internationally agreed rules and norms prevail over the exercise of power…

... and where no country needs to be a hostage to circumstance.

Foreign Minister Wong emphasises our agency even in challenging strategic circumstances, which we see through the growing and evolving global and regional architecture...

...including groups like the Quad, which, working alongside existing institutions, give more choices to countries in the region through a positive and practical agenda for the Indo-Pacific .

I am delighted that Australia will host the Indian Ocean Conference in 2024, in consultation with the India Foundation.

I attended the 2023 Indian Ocean Conference in Bangladesh, and enjoyed being part of the lively conversation between regional leaders.

The map that Carnegie is launching today shows us that there are better, more productive ways to view the Indian Ocean than simply through a prism of great power rivalry.

But this doesn't mean we should be complacent about the risks we all face.

Disinformation, coercive trade measures, and the reshaping of international rules, standards and norms are all challenges...

... challenges that encroach on the ability of countries to exercise their agency, and their rights and entitlements under international law, including UNCLOS.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine demonstrates in stark relief that we must all strive to create a region where no country dominates, and no country is dominated.

Only through protecting countries' autonomy can we hope to keep the Indian Ocean – the Indian Ocean that we see on this map – open, stable and prosperous.

Australia is therefore proud to support world-class institutions like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in producing independent scholarship and providing those of us in government with new, fresh perspectives to consider.

Thank you – I commend to you the map and the report from Carnegie.

Media enquiries

  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555