MINISTER of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre on Sunday said that India is committed to play the role of a leader in BIMSTEC region in efforts against terrorism and trans-national crime, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s “Neighbourhood First, Act East” policy. Bhamre was speaking to the media during the concluding ceremony of a week-long joint military exercise of five of the seven BIMSTEC countries at the Foreign Training Node at Aundh in Pune city.]
BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is a regional grouping comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. At MILEX 2018, the first ever military exercise to be conducted under the aegis of the regional grouping, which aims to boost inter-operability among forces and exchange best practices to contain terror-related activities, a contingent of 30, including soldiers and officers, participated from each of the five participating countries. Nepal and Thailand have sent observers not troops.
Asked about Nepal’s absence in the military exercise, Bhamre said, “Just two weeks ago, the fourth BIMSTEC summit was held in Kathmandu. Nepal has participated in all previous summits. It is a military training exercise and this is a period when their command was changed. So they had to send observers. I don’t think we should look into other angles.”
When asked whether the first-of-its-kind military exercise between BIMSTEC nations was a message to other neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan, Bhamre said, “We want to have regional cooperation and that is why the group was formed. In 1997, the aim was technological and economic cooperation. Then, the forum expanded to other issues, including counter-terrorism. The problem of terrorism is not limited to one country. Our Prime Minister’s vision is ‘Neighbourhood First and then Act East.’ And the Bay of Bengal region is our immediate neighbourhood. When it comes to counter- terrorism measures and dealing with trans-national crime, India is committed to leading the regional cooperation.”
Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat, when asked whether there will be mechanism to share intelligence about counter-terrorism measures between the BIMSTEC countries, said, “Terrorism is becoming a global phenomenon… So that certainly is one of the purposes of the exercise.”