Amid calls to forge stronger cooperation, the Secretariat of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) marked its 22nd founding anniversary on its secretariat premises in the city’s Gulshan, said a press release. Ambassadors, high commissioners of the BIMSTEC member states and representatives from the Diplomatic Corps, international community, officials of the government of Bangladesh and friends of BIMSTEC including members of print and electronic media joined the reception.
Dr A K Abdul Momen, the foreign minister was present as the chief guest. He emphasized importance of BIMSTEC in regional integration and as a bridge between South and South-East Asia. He stated that BIMSTEC should focus more on the areas of trade and investment, connectivity, energy and security, agriculture, tourism, climate change and disaster management and people to people contacts to garner visible outcome.
Momen said, strong political determination is needed to make BIMSTEC more effective for maintaining sustainable and peaceful Bay of Bengal region.
“I strongly believe that strong political determination and innovative initiative of the member states will make the organization (BIMSTEC) more efficient in the coming days,” he said.
Momen said, Bangladesh has been deeply committed to the BIMSTEC process since its inception. “Pursuing BIMSTEC integration for rapid economic and social progress for the people of this region is one of the top priorities of our foreign policy,” he said and adding that hosting BIMSTEC secretariat in Dhaka is manifestation of that commitment.
Referring to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal to restructure the existing BIMSTEC cooperation under three priority clusters – ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Security and Stability’ and ‘People to people contact’, Momen said, these will bring synergy, focus and speed in the BIMSTEC process. He said, more focus is needed in areas of trade and investment, connectivity, energy, security, agriculture, tourism, climate change and disaster management and people to people contacts among the member states to garner visible outcomes of BIMSTEC.
“A sustainable and peaceful Bay of Bengal region could be ensured only when all these areas will produce results,” he observed. The foreign minister said Bangladesh is always committed to regional cooperation as Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman always dreamt of working together with the neighbours.
“Under the leadership of his (Bangabandhu) able daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh continues to pursue regional cooperation as an engine for sustainable growth and economic integration,” he said. BIMSTEC Secretary General Ambassador M Shahidul Islam also spoke on the occasion. M. Shahidul Islam, in his welcome address appraised the guests about BIMSTEC’s recent initiatives to promote economic growth and social progress in the Bay of Bengal region. He also expressed deep appreciation for the government of Bangladesh for its continued support to the BIMSTEC Secretariat since its establishment in 2014.
BIMSTEC, came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration with an objective of harnessing shared and accelerated growth through cooperation in areas of common interests, including trade, transport, tourism, technology, energy, agriculture, public health, environment and climate change etc. BIMSTEC brings together seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in South Asia, and Myanmar and Thailand in Southeast Asia.
The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and Southeast Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries. With the passage of time, BIMSTEC is increasingly shaping a common identity as the Bay of Bengal community of nations. Today the BIMSTEC region is home to nearly 1.7 billion people who form around 22% of the global population with a combined GDP of over US $3 trillion.