Kathmandu, January 23
The BIMSTEC senior officials meeting is being convened in Kathmandu early next week, when the Nepali side is likely to propose a date for the regional bloc’s next Summit.
Foreign secretaries of BIMSTEC member-countries will hold a day-long meeting in Kathmandu on February 7.
Prior to this, a Joint Working Group and Preparatory to Senior Officials Meeting (PREPSOM) will be convened on February 5 and 6, so as to come up with the agenda for the Foreign Secretary level meet.
These meets will review the progress made so far since the last Summit held in Myanmar in March 2014, and discuss reports submitted by the body’s all 14 areas of cooperation, according to Mani Bhattarai, who is responsible for multilateral division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
BIMSTEC — which many have projected as an alternative to SAARC — is an inter-governmental organisation comprising seven member-nations from South Asia and Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Nepal is the grouping’s current chair and it is still uncertain when to hold the next Summit, where all heads of state/government of the member-states attend.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bharat Raj Paudyal told The Himalayan Times that the meeting could discuss and find a date to convene the next Summit, which Nepal earlier had pledged to host in 2016.
During a recent visit to Nepal, BIMSTEC Secretary General Sumith Nakandal and Nepali officials, including Foreign Minister Prakah Sharan Mahat reiterated readiness to hold the Summit as early as possible. After wrapping his visit, Secretary General Nakandal left Nepal today itself.
Nevertheless, sources told this daily that the hosting of such a high-level meeting would be contingent upon other domestic political schedules — that is, the elections.
“As the government is under pressure to hold three-tier elections — local, provincial and federal — within one year, chances are still there to push ahead the BIMSTEC for next year,” argued a senior official.
While announcing its policy and programme, the erstwhile KP Sharma Oli led government had pledged to host the BIMSTEC Summit by the end of the fiscal 2016-2017 — that means less than six months to go.
While announcing an outcome document following a retreat meeting of BIMSTEC countries in October in Goa, India, all member-states had come up with a proposal of holding the jamboree by the end of 2017.
A version of this article appears in print on January 24, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.