BIMSTEC: India expresses commitment about taking Bay of Bengal community to “new heights”

Ministerial meeting held as Myanmar continues crackdown

Updated - April 01, 2021 10:21 pm IST

Published - April 01, 2021 05:38 pm IST - New Delhi

India on Thursday expressed commitment about taking the Bay of Bengal community to “new heights”. The statement was made by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar at the ministerial meet of the BIMSTEC, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation which was held virtually. All the seven-member States, including Myanmar which is witnessing a large-scale crackdown against anti-military protesters, took part.

“Our National Security Advisers have met thrice since 2017. They have been working closely and have moved forward in several aspects of security cooperation including counter terrorism, intelligence sharing, coastal security, cyber security; etc in a tangible manner,” said Mr. Jaishankar highlighting the common security challenges facing the member countries.

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. However, Mr. Jaishankar announced that the organisation will soon have the common set of rules and goals. “I am also delighted to note that the text of the BIMSTEC Charter has been finalised. We hope that all member states will timely complete their internal procedures for its adoption at the fifth BIMSTEC summit,” said Mr. Jaishankar.

Thursday’s meeting, the 17th BIMSTEC ministerial, chaired by Sri Lanka however avoided any reference to Myanmar’s current crisis which has triggered an outflow of refugees to BIMSTEC members India and Thailand. After the August 2017 exodus of the Rohingyas, the crisis is the second occasion where Myanmar’s domestic developments have triggered displacement of citizens. It is understood that despite the crackdown India has chosen to maintain communication with the military junta in Myanmar because of diplomatic requirements.

The meeting also approved the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity which will be taken up during the next summit of the organisation to be hosted by Sri Lanka. It also showed that the seven member-countries — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar — are moving towards operationalising common code of conduct in dealing with criminal matters. In this regard, a BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was also endorsed on Thursday.

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