BIMSTEC nations looking to enhance security coop: India

 Vijay Thakur Singh, the Secretary (East) in the MEA (Twitter image/ @ANI)

Security cooperation is an important element of the BIMSTEC and the member countries are looking at enhancing partnership in this sphere, a top official of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday.

At its first coastal security workshop, Vijay Thakur Singh, the Secretary (East) in the MEA, said India attaches great importance to the grouping of South and Southeast Asian nations and it is a part of its neighbourhood-first policy.

BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

Regional connectivity and trade are imperative for the shared prosperity and economic growth of the entire BIMSTEC region, she said, adding that whether maritime or landlocked, BIMSTEC countries depend on maritime trade for their economic development.

"While providing unhindered sea lanes of communications and economic integration of the region, we have to be mindful about security challenges both at sea and to our coastlines," Thakur said.

Highlighting threats like human trafficking, narcotics, weapons, illegal exploitation of natural resources, piracy, sea-based terrorism, she said cooperation in the security domain will have a special significance and importance for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) members states.

"In the last three years, close security cooperation has not only continued but has also diversified, and it now includes maritime security cooperation, cyber-security, harnessing emerging space technologies for addressing security challenges, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief among others," she said.

Thakur said in the last three years, BIMSTEC countries have developed very close security cooperation and this should further deepen and diversify.

She said the National Security Advisors and chiefs of BIMSTEC countries have met thrice since 2017, which underscores the security cooperation among the member states.

"Under BIMSTEC, we also have another framework in which we do talk about security issues and that is the joint working group on counterterrorism and transnational crimes.

"That itself is an area where there is an exchange of views on combating issues related to terrorism whether it is financing or cross-border support, all those issues are looked at this joint working group on counter-terrorism," she added.

Thakur said issues like countering radicalism is also being looked into.

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