Indian relations BIMSTEC summit: Kathmandu declaration
Why in News?
- The 4th BIMSTEC Summit concluded in Kathmandu on August 31, 2018 with the signing and adoption of the Kathmandu Declaration by all the seven members. The member states have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a Bimstec Gird Interconnection to enhance energy cooperation among the member states.
- The theme of the fourth BIMSTEC summit is ‘Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region’.
- The BIMSTEC is a regional grouping comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.
- BIMSTEC came into existence in 1997, through the Bangkok Declaration. The main objective of the group is technical and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the rim of the Bay of Bengal.
- BIMSTEC has 14 priority areas of cooperation, namely i) Trade and Investment ii) Technology iii) Energy iv) Transportation and Communication v) Tourism vi) Fisheries vii) Agriculture viii) Cultural Cooperation ix) Environment and Disaster Management x) Public Health xi) People-to-People Contact xii) Poverty Alleviation xiii) Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime xiv) Climate Change.
- With the focus on trade, regional connectivity and countering terrorism, the grouping accounts for 22 percent of the global population and has a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion.
- Nepal has assumed the chairmanship of BIMSTEC since 2014. It will hand over the responsibility to Sri Lanka to conduct the fifth summit of the BIMSTEC.
- The Declaration stresses on ending poverty from the region by 2030 in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- The declaration includes issues such as agricultural technology exchange, fight against terrorism, gradual reduction of the impact of climate change, increase trade and investment, and ease the visa processing for the people of BIMSTEC member states.
- It strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism.
- It underlines the importance of multidimensional connectivity as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity of the region.
- It highlights the importance of trade and investment as one of the major contributing factors for fostering economic and social development in the region.
Importance of BIMSTEC for India:
- BIMSTEC assumes significance for India in terms of New Delhi’s Act East Policy and Neighbourhood First Policy, with northeastern India acting as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
- With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) virtually rendered ineffective as a bloc largely due to non-cooperation on the part of Pakistan on issues like connectivity and counter-terrorism, India has been giving more importance to BIMSTEC.
- Highlights of the summit:
- BIMSTEC Summit is the highest policymaking body in the BIMSTEC process and is comprised of heads of state/government of member states.
- The two-day summit witnessed participation from all member states and held discussions on trade, security, and development of the region.
- Though BIMSTEC has 14 priority sectors, the summit has integrated two more priority sectors- Mountain Economy and Blue Economy.
- It is the fourth BIMSTEC Summit whose theme is “Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region”.
- The first BIMSTEC summit was held in Thailand in 1997, second in 2008 in India and third in 2014 in Myanmar.
- A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation along with a customs cooperation agreement and a motor vehicles agreement.
- This year, the summit has two main agendas- Mutual legal assistance treaty to check terrorism and other crimes and enhancing connectivity in the region including coastal shipping.
- PM Narendra Modi talked about trade connectivity, economic, connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity or people to people connectivity.
- The foreigner’s secretaries of the BIMSTEC members states reviewed the progress achieved guidance to the future works of the regional grouping.
- PM Modi interacted with all the leaders of BIMSTEC “to further enrich our regional cooperation, enhance trade ties and advance collective efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous Bay of Bengal region”.
- India emphasized its “sincere and abiding” commitment to work with the BIMSTEC member states to make the region safer, stronger and prosperous.
- Connectivity: PM Modi stressed on boosting connectivity between the member states on different fronts. He said India is willing to encourage coastal shipping and motor vehicle agreements among BIMSTEC members.
- Climate-smart farming: PM Modi also talked about the effects of climate change on farming and urged the member countries to work together to counter global warming. Specifying the need to counter the effects of climate change on farming, he announced that India will organize an International Conference on the issue of climate-smart farming.
- Digital Connectivity: On digital connectivity, India remains committed to propagating the country’s national knowledge network to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. PM expressed hope that all BIMSTEC countries will become part of India Mobile Congress being organized in Delhi in October.
- Science and Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER): India proposed to extend the initiative called Science and Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER) to BIMSTEC member nations.
- Invitation & proposal: PM also extended an invitation to BIMSTEC members for being part of the International Buddhist conclave to be held next years and he also proposed that a special forum for women parliamentarian from BIMSTEC countries should be formed.
- A slew of Initiatives: PM also announced a slew of initiatives for BIMSTEC members including scholarships, research fellowship, and short-term training courses.
- 24 scholarships were announced to researchers, students, and professors from BIMSTEC members at India’s North Eastern Space Application Centre.
- 30 scholarships to students from BIMSTEC nations at Nalanda University
- 12 research fellowships for advanced medicine was also announced apart from 100 short-term training courses on Tourism, Environment, Disaster Management, Agriculture, Renewable energy, trade etc.
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