Speaking at the first BIMSTEC Coastal Security Workshop, Secretary (East), MEA, Ms Vijay Singh Thakur said “India attaches great importance to the grouping of South and Southeast Asian nations and it is a part of its neighbourhood first policy."
Regional connectivity and trade are imperative for shared prosperity and economic growth of the entire Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) region, says a top official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Speaking at the first BIMSTEC Coastal Security Workshop, Secretary (East), MEA, Ms Vijay Singh Thakur said “India attaches great importance to the grouping of South and Southeast Asian nations and it is a part of its neighbourhood first policy. And coordination among ports of the BIMSTEC region will play a role in enlarging trade and commerce, as well as promoting coastal shipping.”
While highlighting threats like human trafficking, narcotics, exploitation of natural resources and the threat of terrorism through the sea routes, Thakur said that cooperation in the security domain is important for the BIMSTEC member states. Adding, “India is pushing for economic integration as well as open sea lanes of communication,” she said.
This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s of SAGAR — providing “Security and Growth for all in the Region”.
The three day workshop organised by the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), in NCR Gurugram for the BIMSTEC member states will discuss issues related to security and other maritime challenges.
With a combined GDP of $3.71 trillion, whether maritime or landlocked, BIMSTEC countries depend on maritime trade for their economic development. BIMSTEC is a link between South Asia and South-East Asia with five members Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
Cooperation in the security domain has been considered of special salience under BIMSTEC and the National Security Advisors and chiefs of BIMSTEC countries have met thrice since 2017, which underscore the security cooperation among the member states.
Earlier this month, the first-ever “BIMSTEC Conclave of Ports” was held at Vishakhapatnam where three MoUs between Ranong Port of Thailand on the West Coast and the Ports of Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata on the Indian East Coast was inked. Once operational this will provide better connectivity and trade flow besides stronger maritime relations.
A collaborative effort at sea amongst partner nations is very important for the trans-national nature of the maritime domain. According to her, the seas should be kept safe and secure for all legitimate users.
In 2018, Nepal hosted the 4th Summit of BIMSTEC which was also important for regional cooperation as it helped in deepening regional cooperation in the key sectors, including security & counter-terrorism; Mountain and Blue Economy, connectivity; trade, agriculture and tourism. And, in the last three years, cooperation among the member states has diversified and now includes maritime security cooperation, Cyber-security, harnessing emerging space technologies for addressing security challenges, Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.