The COVID-19 pandemic had been a “black swan” event that had overwhelmed national capacities, disrupted supply chains and brought people back to the drawing board, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Monday at the inaugural event of PANEX-21, a disaster management exercise of the multilateral grouping Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
“PANEX 21, therefore, is unique as it is for the first time that an exercise of this magnitude involving multiple agencies from multiple countries is being undertaken to review our Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mechanism and streamline our response strategy in the backdrop of a pandemic,” he said virtually addressing the event.
BIMSTEC is an international organisation of seven South Asian and Southeast Asian nations comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
PANEX-21, a multi-national, multi-agency exercise being organised in Pune from December 20 to 22 to foster common capabilities in disaster management aspects among BIMSTEC nations. This is the third in a series of exercises, with the last one conducted in February 2020, which were the early days of the pandemic.
The devastating powers of the pandemic, have been witnessed and acknowledged across the world. “We have realised that our standard operating procedures, which had worked well in the past, are no longer effective, and would need transformative changes.”
As part of the exercise, there is a seminar followed a multi-agency exercise and tabletop exercise, to further streamline the response mechanisms, evolve common protocols and also review the tactics, techniques and procedures. “These stages would help us, bring our capabilities together and synergise our efforts,” Gen. Naravane said.
He called for documenting the best practices discussed. These could be shared subsequently to evolve common protocols and establish greater interoperability amongst the BIMSTEC community. “Furthermore, this shall also feed into the evolution of, BIMSTEC response mechanism for disaster management,” he observed.
He noted that the region was prone to a range of natural hazards and the response strategies have also evolved. Transnational cooperation between the BIMSTEC nations continues to be driven by these common and shared challenges, he added.