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BIMSTEC waxes as SAARC wanes

Guest from the east: State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi being received by Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on Monday.  

India on Sunday declared its commitment to play an “asymmetric” role in energising the Bay of Bengal community that held its first global diplomatic outreach during the weekend with the BRICS countries.

Diplomats said the response of BIMSTEC — Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation — countries to India’s call for greater engagement has rejuvenated the organisation, and diplomats are now “duty-bound” to take the organisation to a cooperative future.

“India has remained committed to BIMSTEC for 20 years. We are determined to celebrate and rejuvenate the organisation. We are honoured with the enthusiasm with which BIMSTEC countries accepted India’s invitation for a BIMSTEC-BRICS outreach,” Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) of the External Affairs Ministry, said. “India is prepared to take on [an] asymmetric commitment through the secretariat in Dhaka.”

Ms. Saran’s comments about rejuvenating BIMSTEC for a cooperative future is significant as BIMSTEC-BRICS outreach eclipsed the SAARC event that was planned for Islamabad in November but was postponed after several member countries withdrew, citing cross-border terrorism and Pakistan’s interventionist policy.

While welcoming the leaders from the regional group, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the absence of Pakistan and said, “In South Asia and BIMSTEC, all nation states, barring one, are motivated to pursue a path of peace, development and economic prosperity for its people. Unfortunately, this country in India’s neighbourhood embraces and radiates the darkness of terrorism.”

Unresolved issues

However issues of unsettled borders, refugee issues and ethnic tension among BIMSTEC member countries would pose a challenge to the grouping, especially the Rohingya issue between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the issue of citizenship rights in Nepal and Bhutan, and also the Myanmar-Thailand border problems

Ms. Saran did not commit if India’s leadership role within BIMSTEC would involve possible intervention in the crisis points of the member countries, but said: “The leaders of BIMSTEC countries [who] met in Goa gave instructions about what needs to be done. We are duty bound to implement the orders and we, the officials, will continue to play this role for rejuvenation of BIMSTEC.”

Mr. Modi, in his speech welcoming the BIMSTEC leaders, laid down an entire array of tasks for the members, including greater coordination in law enforcement, trade and commerce and digital symmetry.

“With 1.5 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, the countries of BIMSTEC have shared aspirations for growth, development, commerce, and technology.”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 7:50:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/BIMSTEC-waxes-as-SAARC-wanes/article16074871.ece

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