“Our member nations face challenges from regular cyclones, earthquakes and floods,” Islam said at the inaugural ceremony of the Kolkata Colloquium of the Observer Research Foundation entitled Reimagining BIMSTEC.
“India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, we all face cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, floods, and all, so it would be great to have a trans-regional disaster management structure,” he added.
“Cyclones don’t recognise national boundaries, neither do floods, so such problems are better tackled on a regional basis,” he said.
Mizzima chief editor Soe Myint, speaking on a colloquium event, said BIMSTEC should focus on issues like physical connectivity and on developing people-to-people contacts.
“It is no good opening new roads, ports, or airports if visa regimes are not eased if tourists are not encouraged because they are viewed with suspicion,” said Soe Myint.
He said if Myanmar was giving visa on arrival to Indians, India should reciprocate.
“That will help our people living in states closer to the Indian border to come to India for medical treatment or Buddhist pilgrimage,” said Soe Myint.
Leading author Bertil Lintner said regional groupings like BIMSTEC don’t get to do much because post-colonial leadership and bureaucracies are very conscious of sovereignty.
“This is a reality in Asia but much can still be done if governments had the intent,” he said.
Participants said India as the biggest country and economy in BIMSTEC had to take the lead and do more than other countries.