BIMSTEC Executives Praise “Robust Connectivity Ties”

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NEW DELHI : India and a group of countries in South and Southeast Asia are implementing connectivity projects to strengthen transport links between their regions with projects worth $ 55.2 billion to different stages of implementation, a senior Indian official said on Monday.

The leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries have agreed to “robust connectivity links” that would boost the region’s economy, said Indian Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at a meeting. Monday.

With this, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka from South Asia and Myanmar and Thailand from Southeast Asia were working to finalize a pact on motor vehicles. and a cabotage agreement that will help strengthen connectivity between the two regions, he said. .

“The BIMSTEC master plan for transport connectivity, finalized under the Indian chairmanship of the expert group last year, envisions a seamless multimodal transport system across the region with efficient transit facilities to improve the mobility of goods and people, ”he said.

“This will boost intra-regional trade and investment in the region. It identifies 264 projects requiring an investment of 126 billion dollars over a ten-year horizon from 2018 to 2028. Projects worth 55.2 billion dollars are already at various stages of implementation, “he added. -he declares.

“We must now collectively develop a strategy for financing and implementing the Transport Connectivity Master Plan. I am happy to note that the work in this direction has already started with the AfDB (Manila-based) (Asian Development Bank) which last month organized the first consultative workshop on the financing of the master plan, ”said Shringla.

BIMSTEC formed in 1997 combines seven countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia that are home to approximately 1.73 billion people and have a combined gross domestic product of $ 3.8 trillion.

The leaders of the group have held several summits, the last of which took place in 2018 in Kathmandu.

With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC – which brings together countries in the region stranded due to Indo-Pakistani tensions – New Delhi plans to strengthen BIMSTEC with the aim of boosting trade and connectivity projects in Asia. from South. Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited leaders of BIMSTEC countries to his swearing-in ceremony in 2019, in stark contrast to 2014 when he invited leaders of SAARC countries.

According to Shringla, plans to develop an energy grid and boost electricity trade through the creation of the BIMSTEC grid interconnector are underway. “The interconnection of the electricity grid would strengthen the energy security of the region by improving the diversity of sources and means of supply of each participating country,” he said.

Security and disaster management were two other areas the group was working on.

“The Bay of Bengal, which occupies 0.6% of the world’s ocean area, is responsible for about four in five cyclone-related deaths worldwide,” said Shringla.

“In addition, our countries are in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world and are prone to high magnitude earthquakes. Rising sea levels due to global warming and climate change have endangered the lives of our people in coastal areas, ”he said.

India hosts the BIMSTEC Center for Weather and Climate, which is now fully functional to provide early warning of disasters, he said.

The covid-19 pandemic has given new meaning to the concept of disaster management, Shringla said, adding that “as the lead country for disaster management, India will organize a Tri-Services HADR exercise ( Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) towards the end of this year in the context of the pandemic, ”he added.

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