India will lead the security pillar of the South Asia regional grouping BIMSTEC and the fifth summit has adopted a charter to expand its overall cooperation and announced a master plan for transport connectivity and highlighted cooperation activities standing on seven pillars at a virtual summit.
In a special briefing of the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday, Additional Secretary, BIMSTEC, Rudrendra Tandon said that the charter will help in the process of formalizing this grouping into a proper regional organization, adding “This was the main outcome of this Summit. With the charter — BIMSTEC now has an international personality. The (signing of) charter (in Colombo, Sri Lanka) has led to BIMSTEC being recognized as an international organisation with an emblem, flag and formally listed principles to be adhered to.”
The adoption of the charter has given the BIMSTEC an “international personality” and it reflected a significant evolution of this grouping as this year marks the 25th year of its establishment of BIMSTEC.
The fifth virtual summit on Wednesday was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the heads of seven- member countries of the bloc comprising India Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
“BIMSTEC Cooperation activities will take place on 7 pillars. Each pillar will be led by one of the member-states, who will be primarily responsible for furthering cooperation. In that reorganization it was decided that India will lead the security pillar,” said Tandon.
This represents a very significant evolution of this grouping, a process that was happening since 2004 or so, but actually gained a lot of traction after 2014.
“From our perspective, the signing of the Charter is the most important outcome. Also in line with this development of the organization into a formal structure was the approval granted by leaders to a complete re-organization of BIMSTEC Cooperation activities,” added Tandon.
He said that another major outcome of the Summit was the adoption of the master plan on transport connectivity.
“This is the major agenda on the BIMSTEC platform for several years. At the 2018 Summit, it was decided that the group will approach the issue more systematically. The suggestion to create a master plan came from Thailand, it was worked upon over the last 2 years in collaboration with Asian Development Bank and was finalized, timed for this Summit,” said Tandon.
He said that at this Summit, the leaders adopted this as a kind of framework or guidance for the type of cooperation that we are likely to do in the future in the connectivity space.
“In addition to these major outcomes, where the leaders were involved directly also witnessed the signing of three agreements — BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; BIMSTEC Memorandum of Understanding on Mutual Cooperation in the field of Diplomatic Training and Memorandum of Association on Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility,” said Tandon.
He further informed that the grouping made progress in various ongoing areas of cooperation – MLAT agreement, centre for technology transfer, etc.
The mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
“MLAT on criminal matters emerged out of the discussions in the security pillar that has been taken by India. There was a Memorandum of Association to create a centre for technology transfer — called technology transfer facility, which will be established in Colombo, the third was MoU for cooperation between diplomatic academies,” said Tandon.
Regarding PM Modi’s announcement at the virtual address, he said, “PM Modi in his address focused on developing BIMSTEC further, proposed the need to accelerate the work after signing the charter and not sit back. Connectivity, disaster management, marine cooperation, economic integration and security were other agendas.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier in the day virtually addressed the 5th BIMSTEC Virtual Summit hosted by Sri Lanka. Prior to the Summit, there were preparatory meetings at the Foreign Ministers level and senior official level. This took place on Monday and Tuesday, Secretary Saurabh Kumar and EAM S Jaishankar attended these meetings in Colombo.
The theme of this Summit was “Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies, Healthy People”.
“This was chosen by the Chair and it sought to capture the main pre-occupations that currently prevail in the political leadership of the region centred around prosperity, resilience and public health. This provided the context to several of the interventions,” said Tandon.
In view of the special commitments that India has to develop the BIMSTEC platform further, PM Modi used this occasion to also make the announcement of some Indian initiatives, which will further the BIMSTEC agenda in an accelerated manner.
“He announced a USD 1 million ad hoc grant to the BIMSTEC secretariat operational budget. The objective is to ensure that whatever pending institutional building tasks are taken forward at a rapid pace. He also announced a USD 3 million grant to revive the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate, which is an important part of disaster management, disaster risk reduction. He announced with the aim of furthering the economic agenda the establishment of a programme that will be run by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in India to try and adopt as many international standards and norms for the trade facilitation,” said Tandon. (ANI)