Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday urged BIMSTEC leaders to find out the mentors, asterminds, abettors, financiers, arms suppliers and trainers of terrorists and extremiststo defeat terrorism.
‘We must be prepared to take strong actions against terrorists and their supporters. I firmly believe that within BIMSTEC we should be able to strengthen our cooperation to address terrorism and rise of violent extremism,’ she said.
Sheikh Hasina was delivering her statement at the BIMSTEC Leaders' Retreat held at the tourist city of Goa in India.
Chaired by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, the Retreat programme was also addressed by leaders of other BIMSTEC countries.
In Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said, her government has taken a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to terrorism and violent extremism. ‘We've also taken massive awareness programmes for the youth, for families, for educational institutions. We’ve succeeded in disintegrating the homegrown terrorists.’
Hasina said as she stood there as one of the four founding leaders who had inspired the launching of BIMSTEC way back in 1997 and during the past 20 years, BIMSTEC has made progress in connecting our two regions.
Understandably, our progress has been slow, but the groundwork has been done. It’s now time to hasten the process of integration,’ she added.
Hasina said time has come to seriously re-look at how BIMSTEC could be made more effective and result-oriented one as well as to draw synergies with other groupings.
‘While we've 14 areas of cooperation under BIMSTEC, I believe we should try to focus more on some key areas like trade and investment, energy, connectivity and counter-terrorism for next five years. Regular ministerial meetings on the key areas of cooperation are important for building momentum,’ she said.
To improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of the region, Hasina said all should aim to develop regional projects which will effectively connect BIMSTEC to the peoples as well as ensure the organisation’s sustainability and visibility.
For funding regional projects in the long run, the prime minister said, ‘We may think of a funding mechanism of our own, while collaboration with external funding sources can also be explored.’
Questioning the commitment of all when she observed that they are yet to finally conclude the BIMSTEC FTA - which was negotiated in 2004, Hasina said, ‘We need to reiterate our political will in favour of the FTA implementation. It’ll help enhance our intra-regional trade
and will boost the BIMSTEC activities and programmes. We may target to finally adopt the four FTA-related Agreements during the 20th Anniversary of BIMSTEC next year.’
Mentioning that the transport connectivity working group has already met, she expressed her belief that the good work would continue on planning, implementing and monitoring of the prioritized projects, with the active support of the Asian Development Bank.
‘For enhancing connectivity, we may consider a coastal shipping agreement. We would also like to see the MoU on Grid Interconnection signed and implemented at the earliest, for better sub-regional grid connectivity and energy trade,’ she proposed.
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