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21/08/2018 03:22pm

Time has come to recognize BIMSTEC; No matter what happens to SAARC, BIMSTEC should be advanced: Expert

image Time has come to recognize BIMSTEC; No matter what happens to SAARC, BIMSTEC should be advanced: Expert

New Delhi, Aug 21 (KNN) With BIMSTEC Summit to kick off in just few days from now in Nepal, the ambassadors of seven-nation regional bloc stressed on early conclusion of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among member-nations.

It must be noted that the FTA has been pending for last 13 years.

The "Fourth Bimstec Summit: Expectations, Challenges and Opportunities", was organised in the national capital by industry body FICCI.

Envoys of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Thailand were present in the conference.

BIMSTEC stands for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec). It came into existence on June 6, 1997, through the Bangkok Declaration. The year 2018 marks the 21st Anniversary of establishment of BIMSTEC.

It comprises seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

BIMSTEC region is home to 1.5 billion people and with the combined GDP of USD 2.7 trillion.

The main objective of Bimstec is technical and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the rim of the Bay of Bengal.

This year's Bimstec Summit, only the fourth since the bloc's inception, will be held in Kathmandu on August 30-31.

During the panel discussion, Former Indian Ambassador to Myanamar Rajiv Bhatia said it is time to recognise the seven countries of Bimstec as a powerful geopolitical construct.

"No matter what happens to SAARC, we should be committed to Bimstec," Bhatia said adding that Bimstec should concentrate on governance, the business community, and the people of the region at large."

Bhatia said while conducting study report for FICCI on BIMSTEC, “We came to the conclusion that the progress so far has been very limited..while everybody talks about massive potential, when it comes about moving things forward its nothing but disappointment that comes your way.”

He said “..this was mainly due to inadequate convergence of policy on a host of issues amongst these several countries. It is also due to lack of political will and commitment. There is the financial issue that inadequacy of financial resources for an institution which reduces to be a talk shop. Above all I think it is an institution which badly needs institutional reforms.”

Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali said Bimstec nations should work together for connectivity, energy and counter-terrorism.

Ali said "Comprehensive connectivity will be a game changer."

Sri Lankan High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara said that Bimstec should work to create its visibility in international fora.

"The Bimstec Summit should work for outreach programmes with international organisations and agencies," Wagiswara said.

Thailand Ambassador Chutintorn Gongsakdi said Bimstec is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.

He called for increased cooperation between the bloc's seven nations in terms of connectivity, trade and investment, people-to-people contacts, and counter-terrorism efforts.

Myanmar Ambassador Moe Kyaw Aung said that cooperation with Bimstec is a priority for his country but lamented the fact that there is still lack of a strategic cohesion in regional economic cooperation. (KNN Bureau)

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