Sunday, November 27, 2022

Question marks over int’l stability: PM

Says BIMSTEC cooperation need of hour

Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the recent developments have raised questions over the stability of international order, as he called for greater cooperation among BIMSTEC nations and prioritising regional security.
In his remarks at the fifth summit of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), being held online, Prime Minister Modi said that with the region facing challenges of health and economic security, the need of the hour is unity and cooperation.“Today is the time to make the Bay of Bengal, bridge of connectivity, bridge of prosperity, bridge of security,” he said.
Modi said India will provide USD 1 million (one million is equal to ten lakhs) in financial aid to augment the operational budget of the BIMSTEC secretariat.
He said the region has not remained untouched by today’s challenging global scenario. “Our economies, our people, are still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
In an obvious reference to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Modi said the developments in Europe in the last few weeks have “raised a question mark over the stability of international order”.
“In this context, it has become important to make BIMSTEC regional cooperation more active,” he said.
It has become essential to give more priority to our regional security, Modi added. Noting that the BIMSTEC charter is being adopted at the Summit, he said this is an important step in the direction of establishing an institutional architecture.
“Now we should focus our attention on how to make this architecture stronger,” he said.
In this context, Modi said he agrees with the Secretary General’s suggestion that an Eminent Persons Group be formed to prepare a vision document.
Modi said the results of this landmark summit will write a golden chapter in BIMSTEC’s history.
It is also important to enhance the capacity of the BIMSTEC Secretariat to meet our expectations, Modi said and suggested to the BIMSTEC Secretary General to make a roadmap to achieve this goal.
The prime minister asserted that it is necessary to make early progress on the proposal of BIMSTEC FTA to enhance mutual trade among member states.
“We should also increase exchanges between entrepreneurs and startups of our countries. Along with this, we should also try to adopt international norms in the field of trade facilitation,” he told the BIMSTEC leaders. In this context, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank, is about to launch a programme to raise awareness of our officials.
Asserting that without security it is impossible to ensure the prosperity or development of the region, Modi recalled that at the grouping’s 4th summit in Kathmandu, it was decided to strengthen the regional legal framework against terrorism, trans-national crime and non-traditional threats.
“We had 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. 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,” the prime minister said.
Underlining that the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate is an important organisation for cooperation in disaster management, especially disaster risk reduction, Modi sought the collaboration of BIMSTEC nations to make this more active. India is ready to contribute USD 3 million to restart the work of this Centre, he said.
Pointing out that India recently organised the third BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise “Panex-21”, Modi said such exercises should be done regularly so that the institutional system of working together at the time of disaster is strengthened among officers of member countries.
Better connectivity is the mainstay of better integration, business, people-to-people relationships among the member states, Modi said. “Today, we have adopted BIMSTEC’s Master Plan for Transport Connectivity. I thank ADB for preparing this. We should stress on early implementation of this master plan,” he said.
Simultaneously, BIMSTEC must also move fast on the ongoing initiatives in the field of connectivity, Modi said and added that it is necessary to develop a legal framework at the earliest to establish a ‘coastal shipping ecosystem’ in Bay of Bengal.
The time has come to take electricity grid inter-connectivity ahead in discussions and introduce it on the ground, Modi said.
Similarly, the establishment of a legal framework is important for increasing road connectivity, he said.
The prime minister also said that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to quality education is an important part of “our national policies”.
In a tweet, he said, “Was happy to participate in the 5th BIMSTEC Summit hosted by Sri Lanka. We took several important decisions to further BIMSTEC cooperation agenda”.
He commend the able leadership of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and extend best wishes to the incoming chair, Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Besides India, the BIMSTEC comprises Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
The main outcome of the Summit was the adoption and signing of BIMSTEC Charter, which formalises the grouping into an organisation made up of members states that are littoral to, and dependent upon, the Bay of Bengal, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
In his intervention, the prime minister underscored the importance of enhanced BIMSTEC regional connectivity, cooperation and security, and made several suggestions in this regard.

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