Region must work together to counter common threats

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By Eunice Ruth 

It is essential that littoral nations work together to ensure that threats such as transnational crime, including narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism and spread of religious extremism in waters, as well as to regional States, are curtailed, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said yesterday (30), while addressing the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit. 

President Rajapaksa; the Chair of the summit noted that signing agreements and collaboration of countries will promote cooperation in respective sectors among member states. 

 He said the world has faced a critical and challenging situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and had impacted many sectors including the global market by rising global inflation. “Millions of people have suffered due to the increasing cost of living and many entrepreneurs and businesses were forced to close. However, in the time of recovery, improved international cooperation will vastly support the recovery from post-Covid-19 impacts in the future. 

 At present, 82 per cent of the population who are over 12-years-old was fully vaccinated where 54 per cent is currently receiving their booster doses”.

 He further said that the economic consequences of the pandemic are severe on the island, and it has led to face severe losses in the tourism industry and expatriate worker remittances. Sri Lanka will prevail over these difficulties and overcome them soon, he added.

 “I appreciate the support of BIMSTEC member countries amidst this crisis situation and enhanced cooperation between member states will be necessary not only for economic recovery but also for greater economic prosperity, better public health, and improved regional resilience in the long-term,” the President said.  

 President said that the Bay of Bengal Region is important in global connectivity and trade where international shipping lines that navigate through these waters help keep the engines of the global economy running. He further said that it is essential for nations to work together to ensure that the threats to these waters and regional states are curtailed.

 In addition, fishing was the major source of income in many of the BIMSTEC member countries and it is important to protect them against competition and illegal fishing on territorial borders. A collective mechanism to prevent such incidents as well as overfishing, as well illegal fishing practices, need to be implemented, he stressed.

The President said that while handling crimes and terrorism, there needs to be increased intelligence sharing, and inter-government and inter-agency cooperation among the BIMSTEC members to ensure the security of the region and also to improve security

The BIMSTEC charter was signed on the same day, along with several other agreements.

 Accordingly, three Memoranda of understanding (MoU); the MoU of BIMSTEC for Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, the MoU for the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Technology transfer facility in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the MoU on Mutual cooperation between diplomatic academies and training institutions of BIMSTEC member states, was signed by representatives. 

 The Government hosted the fifth BIMSTEC summit in Colombo in hybrid mode yesterday (30) under the Chairmanship of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the virtual participation of leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Thailand. Also, Union Minister for Myanmar’s Foreign Minister represented Myanmar. 

 Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of BIMSTEC said the summit was planned to be held in 2020 but was postponed and pushed to 2022 due to the pandemic. He added that signing the BIMSTEC Charter will connect states by strengthening bonds. Further, he said that it is expected to introduce a BIMSTEC trade and goods agreement in the near future for the benefit of all people in the region. 

 Meanwhile, Thailand accepted the chairmanship of the next BIMSTEC summit.