15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting

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The Fifteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting was held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 10-11 August 2017. This foreign minister level meeting of BIMSTEC was held after more than three years.

The meeting took stock of the progress made in the 14 areas of cooperation and on the outcome of the BIMSTEC Leader’s Retreat held in Goa in October 2016 on the sideline of BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand are the BIMSTEC members.

The sub-regional grouping of South and South East Asian Nations has completed 20 years since its inception as BIST-EC in 1997 through Bangkok Declaration.

Bangladesh hosts its headquarters.

Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal, inaugurated the Meeting. In his inaugural address, he underlined the need for concerted efforts in order to advance deeper regional cooperation in the BIMSTEC region.

The Meeting considered and approved the Reports of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Sessions of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials’ Meetings held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 07 February 2017 and 10 August 2017 respectively.

Meeting recalled the 1997 Bangkok Declaration establishing BIMSTEC and agreed to intensify their collaborative efforts to realise the aims and purposes of BIMSTEC embodied therein and pledge to make BIMSTEC stronger, more effective and result oriented.

Meeting noted with satisfaction that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection is ready for signature.

Meeting welcomed the offer of the Government of Nepal to host the Third BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting in the early 2018

Meeting emphasized on the early operationalization of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre in order to strengthen energy cooperation in the region in a comprehensive manner.

Meeting welcomed the offer of Bangladesh to host the Fourth Meeting of the BIMSTEC Network of National Centres of Coordination in Traditional Medicine and the offer of India to host the First Meeting of the BIMSTEC Task Force on Traditional Medicine (BTFTM).

Meeting welcomed the launch of BIMSTEC Tele-medicine Network by JIPMER India to strengthen collaboration among premier medical institutions in the region.

Meeting agreed to expedite comments and observations on the BIMSTEC Framework Agreement on Transit, Transshipment and Movement of Vehicular Traffic (BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement) as well as the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement with a view to negotiate and conclude these at the earliest.

Meeting took note of Thailand’s draft Concept Paper on BIMSTEC Master Plan for Connectivity and task the BTCWG to develop the draft Master Plan for further consideration.

Meeting expressed the appreciation to the Asian Development Bank for conducting the BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study and noted the progress made so far in implementation of the recommendations of the Study as well as look forward to its successful implementation.

Meeting urged the authorities to expedite the conclusion of the Memorandum of Association on the establishment of the BIMSTEC Centre for Technology Transfer Facility in Sri Lanka.

Meeting also welcomed the offer of Sri Lanka to host the Fourth Meeting of the BIMSTEC expert group on the establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility in Colombo in November 2017.

Meeting recalled the BIMSTEC Poverty Plan of Action as adopted by the Second BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Poverty Alleviation in Nepal in 2012 and reaffirmed its commitment to its effective implementation in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Sri Lanka offered to host the Third BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Poverty Alleviation in December 2017 and also welcome the offer of Nepal to host an expert level meeting on 1 November 2017.

Bangladesh offered to host a workshop to explore the interface between the Agenda 2030 and the BIMSTEC in December 2017.

Meeting agreed to expedite the ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking, signed in Myanmar on 11 December 2009 and also to complete the internal procedures to sign the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters at the earliest.

Meeting also expressed gratitude to the Government of India for hosting the First Annual Meeting of the National Security Chiefs in New Delhi on 21 March 2017.

Thailand offered for hosting the First International Conference on Strengthening Cultural Linkages in the Bay of Bengal region, as part of celebration of BIMSTEC 20th anniversary, for deeper understanding among the people.

Meeting welcomed the offer from Thailand to organize a “Training Workshop on Inland Aquaculture and Small-scale Inland Aquaculture Promotion for Fisheries Officers/Biologist for the BIMSTEC/IORA Member Countries”.

It also agreed to constitute an Ad-hoc Expert Group to establish the BIMSTEC Buddhist Tourist Circuit and Temple Tourist Circuit in the region as encouraged by our Leaders during the Retreat.

It agreed to expedite the establishment and operationalization of the BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Commission (BCIC) and BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory (BCIO) in Bhutan as directed by the Leaders during the Retreat.

Bangladesh will host the Second BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Culture preceded by a BIMSTEC Cultural Festival in 2017.

Bangladesh will host an International Conference on Blue Economy in October 2017.

Meeting agreed for an early establishment of the BIMSTEC Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) to recommend a future roadmap for BIMSTEC Agenda for 2030.

Meeting also appreciated the First Secretary General of BIMSTEC, Mr. Sumith Nakandala, for his valuable contribution in the operationalization and functioning of the Secretariat.

It also endorsed the appointment of Ambassador M. Shahidul Islam of Bangladesh as the second Secretary General of BIMSTEC with effect from 11 August 2017.

BIMSTEC:

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.

This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.

It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.

Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).

With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries. BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.

The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy. In the last five years, BIMSTEC Member States have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.

Bay of Bengal:

The objective of building such an alliance was to harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation in different areas of common interests by mitigating the onslaught of globalization and by utilizing regional resources and geographical advantages.

Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization.

Starting with six sectors—including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries—for sectoral cooperation in the late 1997, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors—including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change—in 2008.

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