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Address by External Affairs Minister at the Virtual Prize Distribution Ceremony of the ASEAN-India Hackathon

February 04, 2021

My colleague Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' ji;
Ministers and dignitaries from ASEAN Member States, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Vietnam
Excellencies, distinguished guests and young participants from ASEAN and India.

It is a matter of great pride that despite the restrictions and disruptions posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to successfully organize the ASEAN-India Hackathon on such a grand scale.

A hackathon offers a unique platform to our youngsters to put their minds and energies together and leverage technology to come up with novel solutions to complex problems facing us. It is an excellent means to inculcate cooperative spirit among the participants, and also exposes them to diverse view points, cultures and work ethics cutting across national boundaries. When the problems facing us are global, the solutions must also be truly collaborative and multilateral.

This has been amply demonstrated by the current pandemic which has underlined the importance of working together to address common challenges that do not respect national boundaries. In this time of need, India has come forward to share its capabilities in vaccine developments and pharmaceuticals with the rest of the world. I am, therefore, delighted to be a part of this great initiative which is the very embodiment of what we can achieve by working together.

ASEAN-India Youth Cooperation forms a key component of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership. The Hackathon complements our other on-going youth-centric initiatives. We have engaged more than 2500 ASEAN youth over the past decade under the Student Exchange Programmes. This is in addition to Special Courses for Young ASEAN Diplomats, Exchange Programmes for Young Farmers', Media Exchange Programmes and Programmes for Young Parliamentarians.

I am happy to note that the 'Blue Economy' is one of the two selected themes selected for this Hackathon. ASEAN and India are maritime neighbours. The seas have indeed played an important role in the exchange of people, ideas and material goods between India and South East Asia, not now, but throughout history. The salience of maritime domain has further enhanced as our reliance on oceans as providers of resources, reservoirs of biodiversity, highways of global trade and frontiers of scientific research, has increased and as new tools have come at our disposal for harnessing the seas. India has identified cooperation in the maritime domain as a priority under the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership. Development of coastal infrastructure, protection of marine ecosystems, sustainable harnessing of marine resources and providing sustained and gainful livelihoods to coastal communities are of topical interest to both ASEAN and to India.

The second theme of the Hackathon, 'Education' is also highly relevant. Recognising the important role of education in effectively and constructively channelizing the energy of our youth, it has been identified as one of the central elements of the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. It is in this context that a programme to grant a 1000 PhD Fellowships to ASEAN students at our prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) was launched in 2019 with a budget outlay of US$ 45 million. The programme underlines the importance we accord to education in our partnership with ASEAN.

Weaving together the two priority areas of cooperation into problem statements provides added relevance to this Hackathon. It is an event where cooperation is more important than the competition and the hard work and team spirit are more important than just winning. Let me take this opportunity to commend and applaud all the participants. The past three days were full of creativity and team work and I am sure that the rich experience that all of you have gained will further open the gates to progress.

I am thankful to the Ministry of Education, nodal agencies in ASEAN countries and our Missions abroad for pulling together to make this massive exercise possible and for organising this event successfully.

Let me conclude by thanking all the distinguished guests for sparing their valuable time, for gracing the occasion. And most of all, let me thank the participants without whom this would not have happened so well.

New Delhi
February 04, 2021

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