October, 31, 2017
Pathfinder Participated in a conference themed “Connecting the Bay of Bengal: India, Japan, and Regional Cooperation” organized 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, Her Excellency Chithrangani Wagiswara, Mr. Sumith Nakandala, additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage participated in this discussion. Director Carnegie India Dr. C Raja Mohan moderated the session with Japanese Ambassador for India HE Kenji Hiramatsu and Mr. Sumith Nakandala delivering theme setting remarks.
The Inaugural session was attended by Dr S Jaishankar, Indian Foreign secretary who spoke about India’s view point on the Bay of Bengal region and the importance of Japan-India relations. Admiral Dr. Jayanath 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”. Admiral thanked the Indian Navy for providing immediate assistance in boxing day Tsunami in 2004 to Sri Lanka. Admiral Colombage spoke about various types of common disasters in the region, both natural and human made and the importance of providing timely humanitarian Assistance. Admiral 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 Centers established in 2005 and compared the steady and successful progress made by ASEAN countries in establishing a ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center (AHA center) in Indonesia aimed at facilitating cooperation and coordination among ASEAN members.
Admiral went on to present a case for Sri Lanka as a hub for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations for South Asia.
Admiral Colombage argued that Sri Lanka’s unique advantage in the India Ocean is the geographical location. Sri Lanka is located in the center of the Indian Ocean, almost equal distance from the eastern and western Indian Ocean littorals. Further, Sri Lanka is located just 12 nautical miles from the busiest east-west shipping route across this ocean, linking Europe, Americas, Far East, Middle East and Asia, which is considered a key shipping lane in the 21st century. Sri Lanka is blessed with deep-water ports and deep navigable waters around the country and especially along the approaches to major ports. Port of Colombo is the only port in the region which is capable of docking and handling even the latest version of mega container ships. Sri Lanka maintains a balanced and equi-distance diplomatic posture and is considered to be a friendly country by many countries. Sri Lanka is the only country in this region, where all states arrive without any restrictions, be that Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis or Americans. Sri Lanka is well connected digitally to the world and possesses an advanced telecommunication network. Sri Lanka is also enjoying well connected aviation network linking major cities in the region and beyond. Sri Lanka has already taken leadership roles in the India Ocean with Indian Ocean as Zone of Peace initiative, its role in creating SAARC and creating of UNCLOS. Sri Lanka has presently taken the initiative to discuss a Code of Conduct for Major Maritime Users in the Indian Ocean region and a new Indian Ocean Order. Sri Lanka has also taken effective measures to Disaster response with a well-established Disaster Management Center(DMC) under government patronage. The DMC coordinate all the stake holders, both domestic and foreign agencies in responding to disasters rapidly, in a coordinated manner. Considering these factors, Sri Lanka would be the most suitable location to act as a hub for HADR in the Indian Ocean Region.