- Recently, the External Affairs Minister of India participated in the 17th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)Ministerial Meeting.
- The meeting, chaired by Sri Lanka, was held in virtual mode.
- To further build the momentum of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework and make the organization stronger, vibrant, more effective and result-oriented.
- Highlighted progress achieved in sectors where India is the Lead Country viz Counter Terrorism & Trans-national Crime, Transport & Communication, Tourism, and Environmental & Disaster management and other activities.
- Robust connectivity is an essential prerequisite for economic integration of the region with smooth cross-border movement of people and goods.
- The meeting endorsed the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity for adoption at the next BIMSTEC Summit, which will be held in Sri Lanka.
- India’s northeastern states form a key part of the master plan, with several road and river links passing through the region.
- Called for early adoption of the BIMSTEC Charter.
- The meeting also endorsed three MoUs/agreements relating to convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal matters, cooperation between diplomatic and training academies and establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility in Colombo (Sri Lanka).
- Took note that the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate, being hosted in India, is fully functional with state of the art facilities to provide Disaster Early Warnings.
- Cohesion among the members has been difficult to achieve mainly because of the Rohingya refugee crisis which created bitterness between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- This affected the working of the organisation to some extent as it could not develop a common charter.
- The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization.
- It comprises seven countries. Five of these seven countries- India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh- are from South Asia while the remaining two, Thailand and Myanmar, are from Southeast Asia.
- The group remained dormant for many years till it was revived a few years ago as an alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which despite having the potential, has not been able to move forward due to friction between India and Pakistan.
- With a focus on intra-regional cooperation, the BIMSTEC has also formed a platform with the SAARC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries.
- Currently, the BIMSTEC is involved in 15 sectors including trade, technology, agriculture, tourism, fisheries, energy and climate change among others, for sectoral cooperation.
- In 1997, it started with just six sectors and later expanded to the remaining nine sectors in 2008.
- Secretariat: Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Creating an enabling environment for the rapid economic development of the sub-region.
- Encouraging the spirit of equality and partnership.
- Promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in the areas of common interests of the member countries.
- Accelerating support for each other in the fields of education, science, and technology, etc.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, MINT