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Useful to share Covid experiences, learn from best practices within each participating country: Rajnath Singh

Singh was speaking at PANEX-21, the multi-agency exercise of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries focusing on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: December 22, 2021 10:49:57 am
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

It will remain India’s endeavour to assist countries in the Bay of Bengal region and develop measures for regional cooperation in the area for disaster relief, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Pune on Tuesday.

Singh was speaking at PANEX-21, the multi-agency exercise of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries focusing on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. The operational modules of the exercise are being conducted at the College of Military Engineering in Pune.

“Efforts by a nation directly affected by natural disaster may quite understandably fall short due to the huge magnitude of such disasters. Thus, a multilateral effort, involving partners in the Bay of Bengal region, will act as a force multiplier in pooling-in resources and orchestrating relief measures. It will hasten the process of providing relief to citizens who are already distressed due to the natural disaster. It will remain India’s endeavour to facilitate, support and assist in all possible ways and develop measures that aid in regional cooperation, which benefit all the member states, in the Bay of Bengal region,” Singh said in his address.

As part of the multi-agency drill display held on Tuesday, various scenarios depicting calamities like flooding, earthquake, boat capsize, building collapse and fire were created in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic conditions. Joint rescue missions consisting elements from Army, Navy, Air Force, National Disaster Response Force, civil administration and police and weather forecasting entities were displayed. These exercises were coordinated from joint BIMSTEC command and control room set up for the purpose of the drill.

The Defence Minister said, “Our experience with Covid-19 has indicated that the challenges posed by such calamities demand very specific resources. It becomes critical to move these specific resources within a short span of time, to the areas facing an emergency. At a regional level, this suggests the need for a seamless information sharing mechanism, establishment of protocols for moving responders, material and creating requisite capacities on the basis of country specific contribution. The time sensitive nature of support further demands that we identify and earmark capabilities, to move emergency aid, expeditiously.”

Further addressing delegates of the member nations, Singh said, “The experience of Covid-19 suggests that the ability to not only include all relevant government agencies, but also the private sector, local population and NGOs, is critical for ensuring success of the HADR initiatives. I believe it would be useful to share these experiences and learn from best practices within each participating country. Accordingly, even as we are undertaking this major joint exercise, I wish to reinforce the importance and need for documenting lessons learnt from our collective experiences. Each one of you, participating in this joint endeavour, brings a degree of expertise to the table.”

The multilateral and multi-agency exercise is being held at Pune between December 20 and 22 and is seeing participation of defence forces from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Southern Army Commander Lieutenant General J S Nain and senior civil authorities and military were present to witness the exercise.

Speaking about Indian government’s policy of SAGAR — Security and Growth for All in the Region, Singh said, “SAGAR has both various distinct and inter-related elements – such as deepening economic and security cooperation in the littorals, enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories, working towards sustainable regional development, Blue Economy, and promoting collective action, to deal with non-traditional threats like natural disasters, piracy, terrorism etc. While each of these elements of SAGAR requires equal attention, developing an effective response mechanism to address humanitarian crisis and natural disasters is one of the most important pillars of SAGAR.”

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