Media Center

BIMSTEC Day speech


[6 June] 

Today, we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). BIMSTEC, a sub-regional organization that constitutes a bridge between South and South-East Asia, has become a key platform for regional cooperation in recent times. The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population and a combined GDP of over US$ 2.5 trillion. 

BIMSTEC came into existence on June 6, 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration. Its Membership constitutes seven Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Ambassador Sumith Nakandala of Sri Lanka is the current Secretary General of BIMSTEC. BIMSTEC Secretariat is situated in Dhaka. 

Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization: agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change. 

Following the BIMSTEC Leaders' Retreat hosted by Prime Minister of India in October 2016 in Goa, there is a renewed impetus to energise BIMSTEC and transform its role for enhanced regional cooperation. The Retreat has been described by various member countries as a turning point. 

At the 17th Senior Official Meeting (SOM) held in February 2017 in Kathmandu, countries have expressed their firm commitment to realize the full potential for the grouping and to undertake measures as agreed to implement the Agenda for Action adopted during the Retreat. 

Among the 14 priority areas in BIMSTEC (in each of which a Member Country takes lead), India is the Lead Country for Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime; Transport & Communication; Tourism; and Environment and Disaster Management. Sri Lanka is the lead country for Technology

India has offered several initiatives to advance the Agenda for Action. 

  1. The first meeting of BIMSTEC National Security chiefs: This was hosted by India in March 2017. Brig. M.D.U.V Gunatilake, Director, Military Intelligence of Sri Lanka participated in the meeting. A key outcome of the meeting was recognition of the need to build BIMSTEC as a 'common security space'. Action points that emerged and being taken forward in coordination with NSCS include establishment of cooperation in maritime security; 100 training slots offered by India for capacity building in security domain; Cyber security cooperation; Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR); Use of emerging space technologies to address security challenges 
  2. First BIMSTEC Annual Disaster Management Exercise (BIMSTEC DMEx 2017): This major Exercise will be hosted by India in September/October 2017 with an Advance Coordination Conference in August 2017. It would seek participation from each country. 
  3. Establishment of BIMSTEC Tour Operators Network: India has offered to set-up a network of BIMSTEC Tour Operators and its first meeting to develop industry proposals to develop intra-regional tourism is to be held in New Delhi on July 7, 2017, followed by familiarization tours for tour operators being invited from Member countries. At the Leaders Retreat hosted by India in 2016, BIMSTEC leaders had encouraged the development of Buddhist Tourist Circuit and Temple Tourist Circuit within the region. 
  4. BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA): The draft BIMSTEC MVA agreement has been shared with Member countries. 
  5. BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement: The draft will soon be shared with Member Countries. 
  6. Creation of BIMSTEC Task Force on Traditional Medicine: India has offered to host the first meeting in September 2017 to work on strengthening the role of traditional medicine for holistic health care. 

In addition, the following initiatives are being hosted in India: 

  1. BIMSTEC Trade and Tourism Expo being organized by Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata on September 15-17, 2017. 
  2. BIMSTEC as partner in TEXTILES INDIA 2017 being held on June 30-July 2, 2017 in Gandhinagar. 

India reiterates the importance of cooperation within BIMSTEC based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. India looks forward to active participation by all BIMSTEC Member Countries including Sri Lanka in the aforementioned events.

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