More than handshakes at BIMSTEC

Published On: August 30, 2018 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Whether the government of Nepal is making the best possible preparation for the fourth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit is not the question for this moment to discuss. The fact that Nepal, as a member of this regional grouping founded in 1997 with the main objective of enhancing economy, building connectivity and establishing cooperation in various other sectors for the wellbeing of people of the region, is hosting the summit is something to cheer. So we have heads of governments and states, foreign ministers, members of think tanks and officials from the seven BIMSTEC members in Kathmandu deliberating on issues, raising new agenda and thinking of prosperity and well-being of people of each other's country. To that extent, our regional summits have always been successful. We have the best of the promises, best of the gestures and best of the declarations and handshakes, even between the leaders who are otherwise not seen in good terms. But practically, the summits of our regional architectures such as BIMSTEC and SAARC have not been able to become more than that.

It would not be any exaggeration to say that BIMSTEC offers everything that every member country needs. From poverty alleviation to enhancing trade and investment, energy connectivity, tourism, technology, transportation and communication, fisheries, agriculture, cultural cooperation, environment and disaster management, public health, people-to-people contact, counter-terrorism and transnational crime and climate change, BIMSTEC has every measure to solve every bit of the problem the member countries face. Since its founding, this body has been consistently making plans and strategies to deliver on these priority areas. We have added two more in the list this year: blue economy and mountain economy. Government of Nepal as a host seems optimistic that the summit will herald a new era of cooperation among the member states to expand economic cooperation and connectivity (railways, transportation, energy and airways) and the construction of Buddhist circuit. The theme of the summit has also been wisely chosen as "Toward Peaceful, Prosperous and Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region."

As things stand, good words, good promises and objectives do not alone make the regional cooperation organizations vibrant and functioning. It requires the commitment from each of the member states to deliver on common cause of prosperity and wellbeing. Leaders are said to be mulling BISMTEC Charter. It remains to be seen the kind of charter that will be brought out and whether Myanmar will discuss Rohingya issue on the sidelines. We will have to wait until the conclusion of the summit. But we sincerely hope that this summit will not end just in peasantry and ritual exercise. At a time when our SAARC summit has been criticized for being only ritual exercise, BIMSTEC must come out differently. There is an expectation that the heads of states, governments and delegates gathered in Kathmandu to participate and observe the summit will leave a different example this time around.

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