Leaders call for enhanced cooperation

Strong political will, coupled with right mix of policies, institutions and resources could ensure the success of BIMSTEC: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli

Kathmandu, August 30

The fourth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation kicked off here today, with heads of states/governments of member countries calling for enhanced cooperation in common areas of concern: connectivity, trade, investment, tourism, climate change, transnational crime, terrorism and peace and security.

The leaders stressed that the BIMSTEC had immense potential — the region represents 22 per cent of world’s population, combined GDP of $2.8 trillion and six per cent average economic growth — that had yet to be tapped optimally, and reiterated their firm commitment to strengthening the sub-regional grouping for shared prosperity.

Delivering his opening speech, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said member states were inextricably linked by Himalayas and Bay of Bengal and they needed to overcome the challenge of development and prosperity by fostering cooperation in multiple sectors, including infrastructure, trade, business, tourism, energy, road and connectivity.

“Above all, it is our commitment — a commitment for deeper integration of our economies, of our trade and commerce. It is a commitment espoused over two decades ago, as a thoughtful response to seize the opportunities of globalisation and shifting of economic locus to Asia,” Oli said.

Stating that the region must first liberate the people from the clutches of poverty to realise its potential, Oli said the BIMSTEC Poverty Plan of Action had to be fully implemented. The member states should also intensify collaboration to adapt to and mitigate the menace of climate change, said the PM.

“Strong political will, coupled with right mix of policies, institutions and resources could ensure the success of BIMSTEC,” Oli said.

As far as connectivity is concerned, Oli said connectivity of infrastructure and industries and connectivity of markets and minds could unleash multiplier effects igniting innovation, spurring growth and propelling progress. “I underline the importance of developing and operationalising a Buddhist Circuit in the region to promote connectivity and tourism,” Oli said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BIMSTEC member states not only had diplomatic relations, but were strongly connected by civilisation, history, art, language, cuisine and shared culture.

Making a strong pitch for connectivity among BIMSTEC countries, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was a big opportunity for trade connectivity, economic connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity and people-to-people connectivity. “In the area of connectivity, India is committed to expanding its National Knowledge Network in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan,” he said.

Modi also called for greater cooperation among member countries to tackle the menace of terrorism and drug trafficking. He underscored the need for enhanced cooperation and coordination among member states in areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

On the occasion, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Dhaka hosting the BIMSTEC secretariat manifested the country’s commitment to the grouping.

Stating that BIMSTEC could realise modest success over the past two decades, Hasina said still a lot had to be done to make the sub-regional group a success, such as adoption of consolidated legal framework and substantial engagement for visible result. Hasina also underscored the need for promoting trade and free trade area.

Bhutan’s Chief Justice and Chief Adviser to the Interim Government Tshering Wangchuk said robust partnership was imperative for shared prosperity and for realising national and collective aspirations of the region. Stating that the sub-group must bring coherence in its actions, Wangchuk called for enhanced cooperation in the areas of trade, regional integration, connectivity, security, people-to-people contact and climate change.

Myanmar President Win Myint said cooperation and trade in energy was needed to fill the huge energy gap in the region. He also called for early finalisation of the free trade agreement to promote trade and investment. Assuring active cooperation in combating terrorism, he said the region still faced the huge challenge of poverty.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said BIMSTEC member states were facing similar political and social problems and increased cooperation could address these common concerns.

He also underscored the need to fight drug trafficking, climate change and terrorism.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said BIMSTEC could be a link (both land and sea) between South Asia and South East Asia.

Stating that member countries should focus on quality rather than quantity, he said the grouping could focus on five key areas — connectivity, trade, people-to-people contact, security and science and technology. He also called for early finalisation of motor vehicle agreement and free trade agreement.