Pathfinder participated in a conference themed ‘Connecting the Bay of Bengal: India, Japan and Regional Cooperation’ organised by Carnegie India and India Development Foundation in collaboration with the government of Japan, which was held recently in New Delhi.
This seminar was to review Indo-Japanese regional economic and security cooperation and identify new possibilities in two areas – regional connectivity corridors and maritime security in the Bay of Bengal. The former theme was focused on sustainable development of trans-border regional infrastructure. The latter was focused on the regional maritime cooperation in the Bay of Bengal.
The conference commenced with a closed-door breakfast meeting/discussion with the speakers and ambassadors of the region based in New Delhi. Sri Lankan High Commissioner for India Chithrangani Wagiswara, Foreign Affairs Ministry Additional Secretary Sumith Nakandala and Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage participated in this discussion. Carnegie India Director Dr. C. Raja Mohan moderated the session with Japanese Ambassador for India Kenji Hiramatsu and Nakandala delivering the theme-setting remarks.
The inaugural session was attended by Indian Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar, who spoke about India’s view point on the Bay of Bengal region and the importance of Japan-India relations.
Dr. Colombage presented a paper during the session on regional maritime security cooperation titled ‘Sri Lanka as a hub for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations’. Dr. Colombage thanked the Indian Navy for providing immediate assistance on Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 to Sri Lanka.
Dr. Colombage spoke about various types of common disasters in the region, both natural and human made and the importance of providing timely humanitarian assistance. He highlighted the need for preparedness and response plans for effectively responding and mitigating a disaster.
He indicated the lack of progress made by SAARC Disaster Management Centres established in 2005 and compared the steady and successful progress made by ASEAN countries in establishing an ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre (AHA centre) in Indonesia aimed at facilitating cooperation and coordination among ASEAN members.
Dr. Colombage went on to present a case for Sri Lanka as a hub for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for South Asia.
He argued that Sri Lanka’s unique advantage in the India Ocean is the geographical location.