India committed to boosting BIMSTEC connectivity: PM Modi

Neighbourly ties: PM Modi greeting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at the BIMSTEC summit on Thursday. Nepal PM Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli is also present.

‘The region is a meeting point for India’s Neighbourhood First, Act East policies’

Making a strong pitch for enhanced regional connectivity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that India was committed to working with the BIMSTEC member states  in the critical sector and to combating the menace of terrorism and drug trafficking.

“I believe that there is a big opportunity for connectivity — trade connectivity, economic connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity,” Mr. Modi said, addressing the inaugural session of the fourth BIMSTEC summit here.

The Prime Minister said the region had become a meeting point for India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies. “India is committed to working with the BIMSTEC member states to enhance regional connectivity,” he said.

The BIMSTEC is a regional grouping, comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

“There is no country in the region which has not suffered from terrorism and transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking linked to networks of terrorism,” Mr. Modi told the summit, which was inaugurated by Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli.

‘No substitute’

Addressing the summit, Mr. Oli said the BIMSTEC was not a substitute to the SAARC, and the two organisations could complement each other. He underlined the need for implementing the BIMSTEC poverty plan as well as the Millennium Development Goals for the benefit of the member states. He stressed the need for deeper economic integration and collaboration among the members for speedy development of the region.

Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BIMSTEC member states, situated between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, face frequent natural disasters such as flood, cyclone and earthquake, and called for “cooperation and coordination” among them in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

“As no single country can move alone for attaining peace, prosperity and development, we need to collaborate and cooperate with each other in this interconnected world,” he said.

For research on art, culture and other subjects in the Bay of Bengal, India would set up a Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies at the Nalanda University, he said.

Prime Minister Modi said India will host the International Buddhist Conclave in August 2020 and invited all BIMSTEC leaders to attend the event as guests of honour.

He also said India was committed to enhance its national knowledge network in the field of digital connectivity in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. India also plans to extend it to Myanmar and Thailand. Mr. Modi hoped that the BIMSTEC member states will attend the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi scheduled for October.

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