BIMSTEC MEET HELD AT CHINTAN BHAWAN Neighbourhood-first sentiment reinforced

Gangtok, 24 Apr:

Indian Chamber of Commerce [ICC] in association with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, organized a programme on “Integrating BIMSTEC [Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation] 2018” on the theme, “Fulfilling priorities of Neighbourhood First and Act East Policy of India” at Chintan Bhawan here today.

It may be mentioned here, BIMSTEC is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, having a population of 1.5 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion [2014].

The BIMSTEC member States—Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal—are also among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.

The event included three sessions on different themes focusing on foreign policies, economy, connectivity, tourism, trade, disaster management and the importance of North East Region of India to BIMSTEC.

The inaugural session had Tourism Minister, Ugen Gyatso, as chief guest accompanied by Information Minister of Bangladesh, Hasanul Haq Inu, as guest of honour.

In his address, Mr Gyatso, while welcoming the BIMSTEC delegation, stressed on the policy of inclusive and holistic development that Sikkim is known for with practices including the Organic Mission.

He also added that States in the North East like Sikkim will greatly benefit from the Act East policy.

“With a trade of over 75 trillion in the BIMSTEC region, every member must share in the rewards,” he added.

With regard to connectivity, he advised the regional grouping to develop a motor vehicle agreement which will further cement economic and people-to-people ties in the region.

He appealed to the youth to take part in such international groupings and lead the future with novel initiatives.

He also thanked the Bangladesh Information Minister for his visit to the Himalayan State.

The Bangladesh Information Minister, Mr Inu, expressed happiness on his first visit to Sikkim and also conveyed good wishes to the people of Sikkim from Bangladesh Prime Minister, Shiekh Hasina, and people of Bangladesh. He also thanked the State for the hospitality accorded to him on his visit.

Mr Inu stressed on the key factor of togetherness that binds the entire BIMSTEC region. He also highlighted his country’s policy to engage with neighbours first and to bring 21% of world population that lives in the BIMSTEC region together.

He further highlighted India’s Act East policy and thanked PM Narendra Modi for his active role in taking BIMSTEC to newer levels of cooperation.

“String regionalism is survival strategy and there is a paradigm shift from state security to human security,” he added.

He also asked the countries to turn rivers of sorrow into waters of hopes and held that it is now time to act.

“We should export and import from neighbours first,” he said while highlighting regional trade.

Speaking on the global issue of terrorism, he held that multi-country cooperation was key to destroying terrorism and his country has cracked down on all elements of radicalism in Bangladesh strongly.

Stressing on making BIMSTEC market-induced, he added that there is a need to remove such barriers by addressing certain bilateral issues between countries or at least to keep aside their differences for the greater good of the entire region.

Liberalisation of visa policies, strengthening transportation, digital connectivity, harnessing of shared water resources and neighbourhood-first are some key policies that need to be pursued actively by BIMSTEC and its member nations, he stated.

He mentioned Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin that stretches across India and Bangladesh is a good example of turning rivers into hope for the people.

Speaking separately to media, the Bangladesh Information Minister said that he is delighted to see that Sikkim is a developed area with more development work still ongoing in the State.

He further praised the people of the State as friendly and termed the State as a peaceful tourist destination.

Director General, ICC, Dr Rajeev Singh, in his welcome address, remarked that the programme will discuss all areas of convergence in the BIMSTEC regions. He also highlighted the Act East policy of India with NE being given due importance.

He also said that Sikkim can reap rich dividends with the regions engagement with neighbouring countries with greater connectivity through roads, air and waterways and the region must now identity relevant areas of mutual cooperation.

Ambassador, M Shahidul Islam, who is also the Secretary General, BIMSTEC Secretariat, while addressing the function informed that BIMSTEC, founded in 1997, aims to develop connectivity among the member countries through various areas of mutual cooperation.

President, India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry [IBCCI], M Ahamad, held that regional grouping seeks to link ecology from Himalayas to Bay of Bengal. He laid stress on promotion of tourism and exploration of ideas like Buddhist Circuit for the BIMSTEC countries where Sikkim can be a part with its rich Buddhist heritage.

The programme was also addressed by Chairman, Act East Council, ICC, Rajat Nag, who said that people to people contact is one of the chief motives of BIMSTEC with better connectivity of Sikkim and the NE with neighbouring countries.

The event also had the release of Knowledge Report.

Joint Secretary [BIMSTEC & SAARC], Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Piyush Srivastava, along with delegates from member countries, officials and students were present for the programme.