BIMSTEC summit begins today

Published On: August 30, 2018 07:57 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

Resolve to transform Bay of Bengal into peaceful, prosperous, sustainable region

KATHMANDU, Aug 30: The much-awaited fourth summit conference of BIMSTEC, or Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation , is beginning Thursday, with a resolve to transform the Bay of Bengal into a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable region.

Top leaders of all seven member states of the regional grouping are gathering in Kathmandu to endorse the agenda finalized by the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held on Tuesday and the Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday.

While Myanmar President Win Myint, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sri Sena and Bhutan's Chief Justice and Chief Advisor to the Interim Government Dasho Tshering Wangchuk have already arrived in Kathmandu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha are scheduled to arrive here Thursday morning to take part in the Summit.

Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is scheduled to inaugurate the Summit in his capacity as chair of BIMSTEC, at 3 pm, amidst a special function at Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza. Organized around the theme 'Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region', the Summit is expected to witness the seven BIMSTEC member states signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection, adopting a BIMSTEC Charter and taking important decisions to make BIMSTEC a result-oriented and effective organization for realizing the aspirations of people in the region.

The 16th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting held in Kathmandu on Wednesday considered the report of BIMSTEC Secretary General Shahidul Islam highlighting progress by BIMSTEC in terms of setting up institutions, laying down a legal framework, initiating project-based cooperation, facilitating capacity building and knowledge sharing and enhancing contacts and exchanges at various levels among member states.

BIMSTEC has already established its permanent secretariat in Bangladesh, a BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory in Bhutan, and a BIMSTEC Center for Weather and Climate in India. Efforts are also underway to operationalize the BIMSTEC Energy Center in India and BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility in Sri Lanka.

In their country statements during the Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday, leaders of the BIMSTEC ministerial delegations urged early operationalization of the established mechanisms and the BIMSTEC Centers.

The meeting chaired by Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali was attended by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Bhutanese Foreign Secretary Sonam Tshong, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V.K Singh, Myanmar's Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Basantha Senanyake and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudvinai.

According to Spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Bharat Raj Paudyal, Secretary General Islam reported during the meeting that the Trade Negotiating Committee has held 20 rounds of negotiations on the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement since 2004.

Four different agreements including the Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Custom Matters, BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement, BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and a draft text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement are currently in different stages of consultation among member states.

The BIMSTEC Summit is expected to take a decision to expedite a BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan , narrow down the priority areas of cooperation and focus on core economic sectors .

The Summit will conclude on Friday with the adoption of a Kathmandu Declaration—a draft of which was endorsed by the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting Wednesday.

Myanmar prez, acting Bhutan govt head meet Nepali counterparts

Meanwhile, visiting Myanmar President Win Myint and Bhutanese acting head of government Dasho Tshering Wangchuk held bilateral meetings with their Nepali counterparts on Wednesday on the sidelines of the fourth BIMSTEC Summit.

Myanmar President Myint held a bilateral meeting with President Bidya Bhandari at Shital Niwas on Wednesday afternoon. Separately, visiting Chief Advisor of the Bhutan government Dasho Tshering Wangchuk paid a courtesy call on President Bhandari at her residence later the same day. Officials said the leaders held discussions on matters of mutual interest .

Prime Minister K P Oli paid a courtesy call on Myanmar President Myint at Hotel Soaltee in the afternoon. Prime Minister Oli also held a bilateral meeting with Chief Advisor Wangchuk at the hotel , according to Kundan Aryal, press advisor to the prime minister. The two leaders held discussions on ways to advance BIMSTEC and enhance bilateral relations through further cooperation in various areas.

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