World Economic Forum: Leaders Call for Greater Cooperation in South Asia and Southeast Asia

The prime minister of Bangladesh and the deputy prime minister of Singapore both called for improved regional cooperation in South Asia and Southeast Asia during the closing session of the India Economic Summit 2019 this afternoon.
 
“We have always thought about this because of our geographical situation” in the middle of an East-West axis connecting the regions, said Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Initiatives might eventually include a trans-Asian highway and railway, she suggested. “Now I give more importance to connectivity with Southeast Asia.”
 
As evidence of her country’s commitment to regional integration, the prime minister called attention to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM), the multilateral trade and investment organization. Bilateral initiatives include cooperation on water and energy initiatives with India. While accepting large numbers of refugees from Myanmar, Bangladesh continues to work with the leaders of that nation on a wide range of issues.
 
Hasina expressed her desire for “shared prosperity,” a concept echoed verbatim by Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Singapore. “We need to create a framework for cooperation,” said the Singaporean official. He believes that South Asia-Southeast Asia can become a “great area” for the development of cutting-edge technology. Extending beyond digital technology and artificial intelligence, this should include research and development into new agricultural techniques, he added.

Meeting outcomes:
Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the region, the meeting produced numerous notable outcomes:

  • Drones will soon deliver life-saving medical supplies and vaccines to rural communities in Telangana. The government will begin a drone delivery programme built on a World Economic Forum and Apollo Hospital Group framework.

  • Clean fuel will fly 1 million airline passengers between Delhi and Mumbai by 2030 thanks to SpiceJet and a coalition of aviation partners. They’ve joined the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow Project, promoting the use of biofuels and blended fuels through public-private partnership.

  • People in Punjab will soon be driving down a 100km electric vehicle corridor, which is part of a sustainable pilot project with the World Economic Forum’s Moving India initiative. This is one example of how India is accelerating the adoption of electric mobility nationwide.

  • Smart cities are no longer a thing of science fiction, but how we collect and use citizens’ data responsibly and sustainably is the next big hurdle. To help tackle this, the Smart Cities Mission India joined the G20 Smart City Alliance, chaired by the World Economic Forum, to establish universal norms and guidelines for safe and responsible implementation of smart city technology.

  • To support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative ending open defecation, the Forum’s Young Global Leaders community will mobilize more than $3.5 million in resources to finance the urban sanitation ecosystem in 10 Indian cities, in collaboration with Population Services International (PSI) and the Forum’s Global Shapers. Their #AfterTheFlush initiative promotes a healthy and sustainable urban sanitation system.

  • Doubling farmers’ incomes and transforming the agriculture sector is one step closer to becoming a reality. More than 70 global and regional leaders committed to support investments in integrated food value chains throughout the country. This partnership will build on the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture partnership, which has supported 600,000 farmers.

  • India’s leading energy companies and the Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas will partner with the Forum and other public-sector groups to improve the quality of urban services and create more economic opportunities.

The summit succeeded in bringing many innovative ideas to the fore. To ensure these and other initiatives progress, the World Economic Forum launched a high-level Regional Stewardship Board for South Asia. It has a one-year mandate to shape and develop the Forum’s work in the region. High-level representatives from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka will focus on shared regional challenges, including closing the skills gap, sustainable production and trade facilitation.

The World Economic Forum’s 33rd India Economic Summit took place in New Delhi from 3-4 October under the theme Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World. The two-day meeting convened more than 800 leaders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society with the aim of accelerating the adoption throughout South Asia of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and making the most of the region’s distinctive demographic dividends.

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