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Maintenance of intl peace and security can no longer be taken for granted: Jaishankar

EAM S Jaishankar

NEW DELHI, MARCH 29: Underlining that the recent developments in Ukraine have led to “international disquiet”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said the maintenance of international peace and security and even stability “can no longer be taken for granted”.
Speaking at the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Colombo on Tuesday, Jaishankar said the countries need to “broaden and deepen cooperation” under BIMSTEC. Besides India and Sri Lanka, BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the virtual summit of the BIMSTEC grouping on Wednesday (March 30), which is expected to focus on expanding economic engagement among its member countries.
The summit is being hosted by Sri Lanka in its capacity as the Chair of the grouping BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).
Jaishankar said, “The international system is going through a very challenging phase, perhaps one of the most difficult in recent memory. The challenges of COVID-19 pandemic have not yet fully abated. But recent developments in Ukraine have added to international disquiet. We have all underscored that the maintenance of international peace and security, and even stability can no longer be taken for granted. We must recognise that we face headwinds – both from the global economy and in some cases from within our own domestic economies.”
“Under these circumstances, as we shore up our domestic capacities, we also need to broaden and deepen cooperation under BIMSTEC. We need more working together in many more areas; we need more effective and fast paced cooperation. We need to intensify and build on what we have achieved in the last 25 years”, he added.
BIMSTEC Charter
He also said the leaders from participating countries will adopt the BIMSTEC Charter on Wednesday.
“This is a landmark achievement in our effort to develop the institutional architecture for BIMSTEC. But we must not rest on this achievement and instead move on to ‘next steps’ that can be taken to further strengthen BIMSTEC. I am confident that we will identify priority institution building tasks and areas of cooperation, and task our senior officials to work with the Secretary General for their realization”, he said.
He also pushed for an acceleration of efforts to boost intra BIMSTEC trade and economic ties.
“The development of a network of regional supply and value chains will reduce our vulnerability to external shocks and give our economies greater resilience and transparency. This requires us to accelerate cooperation that has been under discussion for long. Simultaneously we must also work on a more ambitious Trade Facilitation agenda”, he said.
At the summit, the leaders will also adopt a BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity.
“This detailed document provides a framework which can help us better align our national transportation and connectivity networks. It must be fully backed by energetic business collaboration. We must also accelerate efforts on ongoing initiatives such as the establishment of a coastal shipping eco system, of port facilities, of ferry services in the Bay of Bengal, as also power grid interconnectivity and a regional motor vehicles agreement”, the External Affairs Minister said.
Stressing that they live in one of the most “disaster prone regions of the world”, Jaishankar said, “Activities that enhance our disaster management capacities, merit our special attention. In this connection we are taking steps to strengthen the functioning of the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate that is located in India which has been serving this region. We urge all BIMSTEC partners to consider joining the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).”
‘Cannot ignore challenegs that terrorism & violent extremism pose’
The External Affairs Minister also underlined the importance of peace and stability in the region, free from terrorism and extremism, and advocated the need to collaborate more among the law enforcement agencies.
“Much of what we can achieve in our national development efforts is, of course, predicated on a peaceful, secure and stable environment. We cannot ignore the challenges that terrorism & violent extremism, as also transnational crime and narco-trafficking or indeed new challenges such as cyber-attacks, pose to all of us. All of these affect our economic development efforts. We need to put in place the remaining elements of the legal architecture that will enable our law enforcement agencies to collaborate more closely and more effectively”, he said.
With respect to BIMSTEC, he said, “India will bring to bear all relevant policies and approaches – one, as Neighbourhood First, give it the utmost priority; two, in consonance with our SAGAR outlook, realize its full maritime potential; and three, as a first responder, be it on HADR situations, COVID or economic recovery, be there at critical times for all of us.”
Meeting with Nepal, Bhutan FMs
Jaishankar also held discussions with Foreign Ministers from BIMSTEC countries, including Nepal and Bhutan.
After meeting with his Nepalese counterpart Narayan Khadka, Jaishankar said they discussed a range of issues including connectivity, energy, and health.
“Good to meet FM Narayan Khadka of Nepal on the sidelines of the BIMSTEC Ministerial. Discussed our cooperation in connectivity, energy, fertilizers, health and power. Agreed to focus on taking forward the Ramayan circuit”, he tweeted.
After meeting Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji, Jaishankar said the two leaders discussed cooperation in the hydropower sector.
“Discussed our long standing cooperation in the hydropower sector. Reviewed various other projects and initiatives. Spoke about the Bhutanese talent I saw recently in our training institutions. Look forward to continuing our engagement”, Jaishankar tweeted.
Jaishankar reached Colombo on Monday to hold bilateral talks with Sri Lanka’s top leadership and attend the BIMSTEC summit.
This is his first visit to the island nation since India extended an economic relief package to bail the country out of the current economic crisis. He visited Maldives (March 26 & 27) and signed pacts on health and education besides discussing regional security and maritime safety issues with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid. (Courtesy: IE)

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