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India to host Tri-Services HADR exercise by year-end: Foreign Secretary

Shringla observed that the tourism industry was one of the most adversely affected sectors of the economy due to the pandemic.

SNS | New Delhi |

As the lead country for disaster management, India will be organising a Tri-Services HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) exercise towards the end of this year in the backdrop of Covid-19, Foreign secretary harsh Vardhan Shringla announced here today.

He was addressing an international symposium on “BIMSTEC: A Vehicle for Growth and Development”. The BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral technical and Economic Cooperation) is a unique grouping that brings together five South Asian countries–Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka and two South Asian countries–Thailand and Myanmar.

Shringla said disaster management was an important area of collaboration among the BIMSTEC countries having similar geo-climatic conditions. The Bay of Bengal, which occupies 0.6 per cent of the global ocean area, was responsible for about four out of five cyclone-related deaths in the world, he noted.

“In addition, our countries lie in one of the most active seismic zones in the world and are prone to earthquakes of high magnitude. The rising sea levels as a result of global warming and climate change have endangered the lives of our people in coastal areas,” the Indian diplomat said.

Shringla observed that the tourism industry was one of the most adversely affected sectors of the economy due to the pandemic. In this context, collaboration in intra-regional tourism would be an important facet of post-COVID recovery. “As the situation normalises, strong emphasis shall be laid on developing BIMSTEC brand of tourism.”

He reiterated that “Neighbourhood First” and “Act East” – both of which were relevant for BIMSTEC – were the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy.

Shringla emphasised that India remained strongly committed to further building the momentum towards deepening of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework and assiduously working towards making the organisation stronger, more vibrant, more effective and result-oriented.

Robust connectivity among BIMSTEC countries, he said, was an essential prerequisite for economic integration of the region with smooth cross-border movement of people and goods.