India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has called BIMSTEC a ‘promising sub-regional grouping’ at the foreign minister meet of the grouping that took place virtually on Wednesday. BIMSTEC or Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation is a more than 20-year-old grouping and has 7 members–India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka
The meet hosted by Chair Sri Lanka saw, Indian side raising the issue of connectivity, security, and disaster management. EAM Jaishankar said, “Robust connectivity is an essential pre-requisite for economic integration of the region with smooth cross-border movement of people and goods.” The grouping is working on finalizing the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and the Motor Vehicles Agreement to smoothen the connectivity.
BIMSTEC has finalized BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity that will be adopted at the fifth BIMSTEC Summit that is expected to happen later this year in Sri Lanka. EAM termed the finalization of the master plan as an “Important step towards fulfilling the aspirations of the people of our region for better connectivity and integration.”
On the security issue, EAM said, “Development and prosperity go hand in hand with peace and security. We face both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.” BIMSTEC NSAs have met 3 times since 2017 and plans are afoot to increase cooperation. Similarly, on Disaster management, he pointed out that the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate, being hosted in India, is ‘fully functional with the state-of-the-art facilities to provide Disaster Early Warnings.’
India plans to invite all BIMSTEC countries for the International Buddhist Conclave it will be hosting later this year. New Delhi has been keen on the grouping since SAARC has been dysfunctional because of the Pakistani approach. In 2019, during the oath-taking ceremony of PM Modi for the 2nd term, all the heads of governments/ states of the BIMSTEC grouping were present.
Thursday’s BIMSTEC FMs meet also saw the presence of Myanmar Army-appointed Foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.
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