Prime Minister KP Oli addresses the inaugural session of 4th BIMSTEC summit at Hotel Soaltee in Kathmandu on Thursday. | Photo: Dipesh Shrestha/Republica
KATHMANDU, Aug 31: Prime Minister KP Oli has said that BIMSTEC, or Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, is not an alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
In his inaugural speech at the Fourth BIMSTEC summit that kicked off in the capital on Thursday, Prime Minister Oli also clarified that Nepal stands for meaningful cooperation in all forums possible. “We believe that SAARC and BIMSTEC do not substitute but complement each other. We are also committed to advancing the sub-regional cooperation under the BBIN,” he said.
Prime Minister Oli’s remark comes at a time when a section of SAARC member states is apparently advancing BIMSTEC to undercut SAARC. Differences between India and Pakistan over a number of issues have stalled SAARC for long, making the regional body a non-starter.
Responding to a question if India was trying to promote BIMSTEC to undercut SAARC as alleged by a section of opinion makers, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said India deals with each multilateral organization individually based on its merit.
“As far as India is concerned, BIMSTEC for us is not just a sub-regional concept in terms of Bay of Bengal, but also connection both by land and sea to ASEAN and East Asia. Therefore, this is an integral part of our Look East and Act East policy,” he said.
Gokhale said that they are open to engage in all bilateral and multilateral forums. “We deal with each multilateral organization individually based on its merit. This [BIMSTEC] is an area we would like to focus on. We see that enthusiasm from other member states as well,” he further said at a media briefing later in the evening.