Leaders stress connectivity

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Aug 31, 2018-

Seven heads of state or government reiterated the need for enhancing connectivity within the grouping at the inaugural session of the fourth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Summit in Kathmandu on Thursday.

Addressing a formal session at Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza in Kathmandu, the leaders emphasised the importance of exploring multiple avenues of connectivity, ranging from physical to digital platforms.

Even though the region is home to 1.6 billion people, representing 22 percent of the world population, and has combined GDP of around $2.8 trillion, its regional trade accounts for a meagre five percent, making deeper cooperation within the member states urgent. Trade between India-Thailand and Thailand-Myanmar covers a substantial chunk of the volume.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who chaired the inaugural session, opened his 27-minute speech highlighting BIMSTEC as a unique platform that

connects the countries from South Asia with the South-East Asia. Oli said the bloc resulted from the idea that deeper integration can unleash economic dynamism and address the development needs of the countries and people, calling it a medium to accelerate social progress and promote collaboration and partnership.

“It also has to evolve as a cohesive regional grouping; an association of connected countries, connected societies and connected peoples,” Oli said in his speech.

He insisted that the member states should work to liberate people from the clutches of poverty, remarking that the dream of prosperity would falter if the regional grouping failed “to defeat the darkness of poverty”.

Oli called on the member states to stand against terrorism, highlighting that the region is not immune to dangers of terrorism, organised crime, drugs trafficking, human trafficking, and money laundering.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said that his country was committed to connecting its national knowledge network with Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan through the medium of digital connectivity. Modi highlighted connectivity as the biggest opportunity for BIMSTEC nations, stressing the need for focus on the connectivity of trade and economy, transportation, digital connectivity and people-to-people connectivity.

“We [India] can host meetings of the member states for pushing the agenda of coastal shipping and motor vehicle agreement,” he said.

The Indian prime minister, who according to observers seemed willing to rejuvenate the regional institution labelled as “dysfunctional” by some critics, proposed organising new events—India Mobile Congress, Science and Technology Interventions in the North Eastern Region, North Eastern Space Application Centre, International Buddhist Conclave, BIMSTEC Youth Summit, BIMSTEC Band Festival, and BIMSTEC Youth Water Sports to name a few—and encouraged member states to be active participants of these initiatives.

Modi also pledged to set up the Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies in Nalanda University to research on the region in the field of art, culture, and ocean law.

Drawing wider attention to the region’s growing vulnerability to natural disasters, the Indian leader also welcomed BIMSTEC Multi-national Military Field Training Exercise and conclave of Army Chiefs, scheduled to be held in Pune in the second week of September.

“This region is linked with the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal and faces challenges posed by natural calamities time and again. We should extend humanitarian cooperation and disaster relief and for this, we need to cooperate and coordinate with each other,” Modi said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the prosperity of the BIMSTEC member states is only possible through reforms in politics and economic development. BIMSTEC member states need to promote people-to-people contact by attaching priority to culture and public health, she said.

Tshering Wangchuk, chief advisor of the Interim Government of Bhutan, called on the member states to tackle climate change and its adverse effects as a common challenge.

“It is not possible to achieve our objective by a single country,” Wangchuk said. “We need a collaborative effort to resolve our problem while highlighting the importance of connectivity among the people of this region.”

Prayut Chan-ocha, the prime minister of Thailand, said connectivity was at the forefront of the nation’s national policy. He proposed two areas of collaboration: transport connectivity and maritime connectivity.

Under transport connectivity, a trilateral highway connecting India, Myanmar, and Thailand with the East-West Economic Corridor of the ACMES (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar) countries and acceleration of BIMSTEC motor vehicle agreement have been proposed. Under maritime connectivity, the Thai leader urged member states to accelerate the internal process to complete the signing of the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement by 2019.



BIMSTEC no substitute for SAARC: Oli

KATHMANDU: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said on Thursday that BIMSTEC cannot be an alternate to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Oli said Nepal stands for a meaningful regional cooperation and the two regional institutions do not substitute, but rather complement, each other. PM Oli also added that Nepal was committed to advancing sub-regional cooperation in the form of BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).  (PR)

Published: 31-08-2018 07:43

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