It is impossible to ensure prosperity or development without security, PM Modi said

Noting that the Bay of Bengal region was facing challenges of health and economic security, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that now was the time to make Bay of Bengal, a Bridge of Connectivity, Prosperity and Security.

“Today as our region is facing challenges of health and economic security, the need of the hour is solidarity and cooperation. Today is the time to make Bay of Bengal a Bridge of Connectivity, Bridge of Prosperity, Bridge of Security. Re-dedicate yourself with a new vigor, new energy,” PM Modi said while addressing the 5th BIMSTEC Summit.

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is a regional grouping comprising India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. The 5th BIMSTEC Summit was hosted in virtual mode by Sri Lanka, the current chair of BIMSTEC.

In his remarks PM Modi said, “Our economies, our people, are still suffering the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The developments in Europe of the last few weeks have raised a question mark on the stability of the international order.”

“In this context, it has become important to make BIMSTEC regional cooperation more active. It has also become imperative to give more priority to our regional security,” the Prime Minister stated.

Referring to the adoption of BIMSTEC Charter in the Summit, he said this is an important step in our efforts towards an institutional architecture.

“In the Charter, we have decided to have summit meetings every two years and annual foreign ministers' meeting. I welcome it. Now we should focus our attention on how to make this architecture stronger,” PM Modi informed.

Agreeing to the BIMSTEC Secretary General’s suggestion that an Eminent Persons Group be formed, which will prepare a vision document, he said, it is also important to enhance the capacity of the Secretariat for BIMSTEC to meet our expectations.

“I suggest that the Secretary General prepare a roadmap to achieve this goal. For this important work to be completed on time and as expected, India will provide financial assistance of one million dollars to increase the operational budget of the Secretariat,” the PM further stated.

Pointing out that it is necessary to make early progress on the proposal of BIMSTEC FTA to enhance our mutual business, he suggested that member-nations should also increase the exchange between the entrepreneurs and start-ups of our countries.

“Along with this, we should also try to adopt international norms in the field of Trade Facilitation. This will boost intra-BIMSTEC trade and economic integration,” he added.

“In this context, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, in collaboration with ADB, is about to launch a program to raise awareness of our officials. I hope that the concerned officials of all the countries will regularly participate in this,” Modi maintained.

Pointing out that better connectivity is the mainstay of better integration, better business, better people-to-people relationships between us, he said, today we have adopted BIMSTEC's Master Plan for Transport Connectivity. “We should stress on early implementation of this master plan,” he suggested.

“Simultaneously, we also have to move fast on the already ongoing initiatives in the field of connectivity. It is necessary to develop a legal framework at the earliest to establish a 'coastal shipping ecosystem' in Bay of Bengal,” the Minister said.

“The time has come to take electricity grid inter-connectivity ahead of discussions and bring it to the ground. Similarly, the establishment of a legal framework is important for increasing road connectivity,” he explained.

Observing that the Bay of Bengal region has always been prone to natural disasters, Modi said that the BIMSTEC Center for Weather and Climate is an important organization for cooperation on disaster management, especially disaster risk reduction.

“And I would like your cooperation to make it active. India is ready to contribute three million dollars to restart the work of this centre,” he added.

Noting that India recently organized the 3rd BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise ‘Panex-21’, the Prime Minister said that such exercises should be done regularly so that the institutional system of working together at the time of disaster is strengthened among our officers.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to Quality Education is an important part of our national policies, he stated.

India is working towards expanding and expanding the BIMSTEC Scholarship Scheme offered by Nalanda International University, he said.

India is also trying to promote joint research on Marine Sciences keeping the Bay of Bengal at the centre, PM Modi added.

“Agriculture sector is the backbone of the economy of all BIMSTEC countries. We have great potential to create regional value chains of value-added agricultural products. For this, we have given the task of conducting a comprehensive study to an institute in India – RIS,” he said.

Observing that without security it is impossible to ensure the prosperity or development of our region, Modi said in our fourth summit in Kathmandu, we decided to strengthen the regional legal framework against terrorism, trans-national crime and non-traditional threats.

“We also decided to increase cooperation between our law enforcement agencies. I am glad that our Convention to combat terrorism has become active since last year,” he said.

“During today's summit, a mutual legal assistance treaty on criminal matters is also being signed between us. We should also move quickly to other similar instruments, so that there can be better coordination between our legal systems,” PM Modi alluded.

Informing that an agreement is being signed for cooperation between diplomatic training institutes of BIMSTEC member nations, he said, we can also make a similar agreement between our law enforcement training institutes.

“The Forensic Science University of India is a unique and world class institution in its field. We can also arrange for capacity building for police and forensic officials of BIMSTEC countries in this,” the Prime Minister said.