Connectivity of Minds Crucial for Connecting South Asia and SE Asia: Sumith Nakandala

March 29, 2017

New Delhi: Offering the perspective of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on connectivity between South Asia and Southeast Asia, Ambassador Sumith Nakandala, Secretary General, BIMSTEC, in a Special Address today said that apart from hard connectivity through roads and railways, there is also a need to foster ‘connectivity of minds’ in the region.
Ambassador Sumith Nakandala was delivering a Special Address on ‘Connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia: The BIMSTEC Perspective’, on the concluding day of the 10th South Asia Conference on ‘Strengthening Connectivity in South Asia’, organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on March 28-29, 2017.
Observing that connections between South Asia and Southeast Asia have been in place since time immemorial, the Secretary General insisted that it was time now to reconnect both the regions holistically, using the latest available technologies.
He highlighted the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative that aims at increasing the availability and affordability of broadband Internet across Asia and the Pacific, and the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Rail Network that would enhance and optimise surface connectivity in the region, as the two major connectivity initiatives that are in the pipeline. 
Speaking on the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Connectivity, the Secretary General said that the BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study (BTILS) that was concluded in 2014, enlisted scores of big and small projects, which would help in connecting both the regions.
Replying to a query on the Trans-Border Grid Connectivity, which will pave the way for sharing of power in the region, the Secretary General suggested that a master plan for grid interconnections needs to be evolved for promoting balanced power transmission in the region.
On the prospects of air connectivity in the region, Ambassador Naknadala said that BIMSTEC had initially toyed with the idea of setting up BIMSTEC Airlines. Its member countries could perhaps emulate the EU model in strengthening air connectivity in the region, he said.
Replying to a query on China’s reaction to BIMSTEC, he said that while Chinese think tanks have shown interest, there has been no official statement from China on BIMSTEC so far.
BIMSTEC is a regional organisation set up in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are its members.