BIMSTEC to boost connectivity

BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka. Photo: Facebook/@BimstecInDhaka  

Following the fourth meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Kathmandu in August, there is a renewed push to conclude a series of proposals to further cooperation and connectivity.

The top among them are a master plan on connectivity and the motor vehicle agreement, which have been in the works for almost a decade. Other proposals like a parliamentarians forum, cooperation on cyber and space cooperation and maritime security are under discussion.

“We are going to have the third meeting of the connectivity working group probably in Delhi in December…The objective is to finalise it in the meeting. And we are going to circulate the final draft from November 23,” said Pankaj Hazarika, Director, BIMSTEC, during the first meeting of BIMSTEC think tank dialogue on regional security, a Track 1.5 dialogue, hosted by the Vivekananda International Foundation early this week.

The dialogue is an outcome of the first meeting of National Security Advisors held in March 2017 and the second meeting of security chiefs held in March 2018.

The draft connectivity master plan aims to improve movement between member states in all modes of transport and is likely to be adopted during the ministerial meeting early next year. The draft was prepared with financial and consultative support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The consultative support of ADB is available till December 31, 2018.

The BIMSTEC regional grouping was set up in 1997 and includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The first summit was held in 2004 and the secretariat established in Dhaka in 2014.

Similarly, the motor vehicle agreement which aims to streamline vehicle movement across the region is also in an advanced stage of finalisation. There are several agreements in various stages of discussion noted Sumith Nakandala, Additional Secretary in Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and former Secretary General of BIMSTEC. He said that ADB had been requested to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation with other international organisations.

“At the ministerial session before the Kathmandu summit, the secretariat was given the mandate to engage with international organisations,” Mr. Nakandala stated.

India circulated a draft coastal security plan in December 2017 which has now been circulated to member states and their comments are awaited. Member states are sending suggestions on space cooperation and a human rights council. A few days ago, India had sent a proposal on a joint parliamentarians forum and had asked for suggestions from the members.

Outcome document

The dialogue has produced an outcome document which will now be circulated among members by the Secretariat. Top among the recommendations is upgrading cooperation in disaster management, terrorism, maritime security and transnational crime.

BIMSTEC is already looking at adopting the model of ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) on disaster management.

“BIMSTEC weather and climate centre at Noida should be renamed as BIMSTEC disaster management and climate change centre. It should be converted into a development centre on disaster management,” the outcome document stated and called on India to provide training to member states at its disaster management training centre in Nagpur.

Fight against terror

On the crucial issue of joint fight against terrorism, BIMSTEC already has a convention on combating international terrorism. However, Mr. Nakandala, noted that all member states have signed it but one of them is yet to ratify.

“It has taken considerable time and effort for member states to not only sign but also to ratify. Unless you ratify the convention there won’t be any legal effect,” he added.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 2:54:57 PM |

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