BIMSTEC Think Tanks Meeting, at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), 27-29 Nov 2019
Welcome Remarks by the Director, VIF

Amb PS Raghavan, Chairman NSAB, Excellency Mr. M Shahidul Islam, Secretary General of BIMSTEC, Ambassador Virander Paul, Joint Secretary (BIMSTEC, SAARC & Nalanda), Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Diplomats of BIMSTEC countries, Distinguished Delegates from BIMSTEC member countries, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Vivekananda International Foundation, I would like to heartily welcome you all to the 2nd edition of the BIMSTEC Think Tanks Dialogue on Regional Security.

I am particularly thankful to Amb PS Raghavan, Chairman of the NSAB, Secretary General BIMSTEC Mr M Shahidul Islam, Sh Virander Paul, Joint Secretary (BIMSTEC, SAARC & Nalanda), MEA, for their participation in the Conference. I also would like to thank the Deputy NSA Amb Pankaj Saran and his team at the National Security Council Secretariat for constantly encouraging and supporting the think tank dialogue on regional security.

I am also grateful to the BIMSTEC Secretariat and the Indian Missions for their cooperation in organizing this conference. I am grateful for the messages of support and encouragement received from Sh Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser, Government of India, and Secretary-General of BIMSTEC.

The Bay of Bengal is a distinctive region situated between the Himalaya and the waters of the Bay of Bengal itself. The destiny of this vast region accounting for 1.6 bn people (22 percent of the world’s population) has been linked by shared geography, history and culture. At one point of time, it was a flourishing region which served at maritime highway between India and China. The rise and decline of the Bay of Bengal is a story by itself which has been admirably recounted by the author Sunil Amrit in his wonderful book on the Bay. It is time that the regional connectivity which have been lost are restored now.

One year ago, we had met at the same venue to initiate discussion on regional security issues faced by member countries. Intensive discussion was held on that occasion and an exhaustive outcome document was produced. The VIF is privileged to have the opportunity to host this year’s dialogue which builds on last year's discussion. Response this year has been even more enthusiastic.

In today's Conference, we are focusing on the impact on the internet and social media on terrorism and radicalization, maritime domain awareness, environment and climate change, capacity building within BIMSTEC countries and countering cybersecurity threats. The importance of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analysis in analyzing data to deal with modern security challenges cannot be overstated. This is particularly true in the field of cybersecurity and maritime domain awareness. BIMSTEC countries need to develop capacity in these areas urgently.

Friends, following the fourth summit of BIMSTEC leaders in Kathmandu, Nepa,l last year, a number of important meetings and dialogues have been held. The third meeting of the security chiefs was held in Bangkok in Mar 2019. The second meeting Track 1.5 security dialogue was held in Bangladesh in July. Last year, a workshop on cyber-security had developed a roadmap for cooperation amongst BIMSTEC countries on cyber-security. The first-ever BIMSTEC conclave of ports was held at Visakhapatnam earlier this month. A coastal security workshop for BIMSTEC countries was held in Delhi a few days ago. These initiatives show that the BIMSTEC countries attach a great deal of importance to develop cooperation in connectivity and security issues. The present conference which involves experts from different counties at the Track II level involves supplements the ongoing efforts to strengthen BIMSTEC security dialogue.

A number of important recommendations were made in the outcome document of the first meeting of BIMSTEC Think Tanks on Regional Security. The importance of intelligence and information sharing in real-time, the need for a rule-based maritime order in the Bay of Bengal, the incorporation of the concept of SAGAR- security, and growth for all in the region suggested by PM Modi in maritime security initiatives in the Bay of Bengal region were emphasized. The urgency to build institutional capacity amongst BIMSTEC countries to deal with the threat of transnational crime was highlighted. Taking note of the threats to the region from climate change, the meeting reviewed BIMSTEC preparedness and resilience towards disaster management and suggested that BIMSTEC weather and climate center at NOIDA, India should be renamed as BIMSTEC disaster management and climate change center to focus on research and development on climate change, disaster management, and resilience. The participants strongly suggested that the capacity of BIMSTEC secretariat should be enhanced to facilitate research on security issues.

I am confident that this conference will contribute towards improving our understanding of common security challenges faced by our country and generate momentum for the continuation and deepening of security dialogue amongst member countries. I have no doubt that the conference will generate useful ideas and suggestions for policy makers.

Thank you.

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