Pathfinder Foundation convenes regional conference

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By 2017-02-16

Pathfinder Foundation convenes 'Trincomalee Consultations', a two-day conference for countries in the Bay of Bengal, dependent on the Bay for trade and other interactions. India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka will participate. Japan and Norway are also taking part in the deliberations at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo today (16) and tomorrow (17) February 2017.

The conference, co-hosted by Carnegie India, will be opened by Governor of the Eastern Province, Austin Fernando. India's Ministry of External Affairs, Joint Secretary, Santosh Jha and Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director-General of Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs Noriyuki Shikata. Among those present will be Pathfinder Foundation (PF) Founder, Milinda Moragoda and PF Executive Director, Luxman Siriwardena. The regional event 'Colombo Consultations' is organized by the Centre for Indo-Lanka Relations of PF, Director, Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage.

Following the opening session chaired by PF Chairman Bernard Goonetilleke, papers will be presented on three themes by Carnegie India Director, Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Abu Saeed Khan (Bangladesh); Dr. Satoru Nagao (Japan); Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Rohan Masakorala (Sri Lanka) and Secretary General of BMISTEC, Ambassador Sumith Nakandala.

The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world and covers an area of 2,172,000 sq. km. The Bay boasts of a population of about 1.8 billion or nearly 25% of the world population. Many large rivers and tributaries flow into the Bay depositing sediments, which contain commercially exploitable minerals as well as hydrocarbons.
There are a number of large and small ports that serve the Bay. Among the large ports are Chennai, Kolkata, Tuticorin, Vishakhapatnam in India; Chittagong and Mongla in Bangladesh; Yangon, Sitwe, Kyaukpyu in Myanmar; and Trincomalee and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. These ports provide an ideal platform for trade among countries in the Bay as well as transshipment facilities to serve major markets beyond the region.

The Trincomalee Port is the biggest natural deep water harbour in the Bay of Bengal and is one of the finest harbours in the world with an average depth of 25 m., which could accommodate even mega container ships carrying over 18,000 TEUs that requires a draught of 19 metres. The Trincomalee harbour provided shelter to the British Eastern Fleet, during the Second World War. However, following Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka took over the control of Trincomalee harbour in 1957. Since then, for the past 60 years, the harbour's potential has not put into use.

The Government has unveiled a plan to develop various parts of the island including Trincomalee. Recognizing that poor infrastructure was a drag on development plans, an ambitious programme of infrastructure development to overhaul the sea, air, road connectivity, the energy sector and telecommunications to form the backbone of Sri Lanka's economy has been launched.
In addition to the development projects involving Colombo and Hambantota harbours, the Government has also taken measures to develop Trincomalee to realize the full potential of the Trincomalee harbour and its surrounding areas. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe outlining the Government's development plans announced in July 2016 that the services of a Singapore government-owned consultancy company focusing on infrastructure and urban development, to prepare a master plan for development of Trincomalee, based on shipping, manufacturing and tourism was envisaged. With the unveiling of the master plan this year, countries in the region as well as others will have an opportunity to become investment partners of the Trincomalee development project and reap benefits of their investments.

The Pathfinder Foundation in cooperation with Carnegie India and with support of Japan and Norway, has launched the 'Trincomalee Consultations' to focus on three broad areas. (i) Geo-strategic significance and regional maritime security demands in the Bay of Bengal; (ii) Transportation and economic connectivity in the Bay of Bengal: Way ahead for enhanced cooperation; and (iii) Strategic importance and potential for development of Trincomalee Harbour as a hub for Bay of Bengal region.

The conference is a Track 1.5 exercise, attended by high level government and non-governmental representatives from Bangladesh, India, Japan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Among the institutions that would attend the event are BIMSTEC, ADB, JICA, Carnegie India, Vivekananda International Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation. With this initiative, the Pathfinder Foundation seeks to contribute to develop Trincomalee as a regional commercial and shipping hub to serve the Bay of Bengal region. This in turn will result in economic growth and prosperity of the Eastern Province, utilizing human and other resources in that province as well as adjacent provinces.

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