National Defence Bureau,
New Delhi, 22 September 2017
Speaking at the First Meeting of The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Track 1.5 Security Dialogue Forum at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on September 22, 2017, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, said that the security challenges that the region faces requires our collective vision and determination to overcome them. “Our region constitutes a common space for development and security,” said Saran.
Citing connectivity, co-operation in trade and investments, energy climate tourism, agriculture and other areas as the engine of growth for the region, Saran said that connected societies, digital opportunities, technology shifts, knowledge boom and innovation are some of the drivers of growth in the region.
Speaking on terrorism, Saran stated that although, “our liberal, plural, tolerant and democratic ethos helps us guard against this threat, still we need to remain vigilant and together to reinforce our counter-narrative, based on our inclusive values, to engage the youth who are being targeted.”
Under the priority area of ‘Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime’, there have been regular exchanges between BIMSTEC on intelligence and information sharing, drug and human trafficking, combating financing of terrorism, she added.
Terming internet as the largest and most un-governed space in the world, Saran said that cyber security has become a serious challenge for every modernizing society. Since digital boundaries may not coincide with national frontiers, regional collaboration becomes an essential part of our response mechanism, she pointed out.
Earlier, in his message, which was read out by Pankaj Hazarika, Director, BIMSTEC, His Excellency Ambassador Shahidul Islam, Secretary General, BIIMSTEC, stated that for the Bay of Bengal region to develop again as the epitome of regional integration, the member states must focus on addressing the menace of terrorism and other security threats in a collective manner, in addition to the traditional areas of cooperation. The growing menace of terrorism and transnational crime has been acknowledged by the BIMSTEC member states at the highest level of government.
Maritime security encompasses a wide variety of areas, including protection of marine resources, maritime law enforcement environmental concerns, natural disasters, threats from terrorists through the sea routes etc, and require coordinated efforts among the agencies of the member states responsible for individual areas, it read.
Describing space technology as a vital tool for planning and improving delivery and governance structure in the functioning of governments, the statement said that this technology can play an important role in various BIMSTEC areas of cooperation, particularly in disaster management, poverty alleviation, public health, agricultural productivity, climate change and communication, specially digital connectivity.
In his welcome remarks, Deputy Director General, IDSA, Maj Gen Alok Deb (Retd), while emphasizing upon the special significance that BIMSTEC holds for India, said it is through the aegis of BIMSTEC that India has received an additional impetus to develop its Northeastern region, and by using this as a gateway, to integrate itself with other countries on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.