Warning about the evolving threat of terrorism in the Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) region, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought stronger cooperation from the seven-nation grouping to effectively counter it, asserting that their security is "indivisible".
Addressing the 3rd Bimstec Summit here, Singh said the region faces many common challenges - from natural disasters to terrorism which have to be collectively addressed to make an important contribution to peace, harmony, security and prosperity in Asia and the world. "Like our prosperity, our security, too, is indivisible- whether it is the security of sea lanes of communication in our region or the persisting challenges of terrorism and transnational crimes," he said.
The seven members - India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal - bring together over 20 per cent of the world population, which is about 1.5 billion, and a GDP of over USD 2.5 trillion.
"The nature of the evolving threat of terrorism in the Bimstec region has imparted greater urgency for stronger cooperation to counter it," he stressed.
As part of this effort, the grouping must seek early ratification of the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking as also expediting signing of the Bimstec Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, he said, adding that negotiations should be commenced on a Bimstec Convention on Extradition. The Prime Minister also spoke of the many opportunities that Bimstec countries share in the fields of trade, economic cooperation and connectivity, saying all of this "presage a bright future for us".
He said the in realising the Bimstec vision, connectivity-physical and digital-was the key to it and could be a drive of cooperation and integration in the region, the Bimstec is an expression of India's look East Policy of the 1990s, coinciding with Thailand's Look West policy.
Singh said in coming together, the grouping was not only stepping out of "narrow, traditional" definitions of regions such as South Asia or Southeast Asia, but also building a bridge across Asia's most promising and dynamic arc.
India, he said, was working with Bimstec members to improve physical connectivity through various projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, the Asian Highway Network, the Asean Master Plan for Connectivity and others.
"We will soon launch a direct shipping line to Myanmar that will enhance our region's growing maritime links," he said. "While developing physical infrastructure, there was also need for simultaneously putting in place supporting architecture of rules and regulations to facilitate cross-country movements," he said.
Focussing on trade and economic cooperation, Singh said this should figure high on the list of priorities of Bimstec countries. He underpinned the importance of early conclusion of the Bimstec Free Trade Agreement for trade in goods and extend it to investment and services.
Full Text of PM's Speech: