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BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting fails to fix summit date

By Our Reporter

The 15th Ministerial Meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) concluded here Friday failed to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection.

The meeting also failed to fix the date of the fourth BIMSTEC Summit. Earlier, the meeting was expected to sign the MoU and fixed the date for its 4th  summit. But it ended by only expressing commitment to sign the agreement at the earliest possible.

Similarly, the signing of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Agreement was also postponed although the member countries, in the 17th Senior Officials’ Meeting held in Kathmandu in February this year had agreed to conclude the FTAA during the ministerial meeting.

BIMSTEC, the seven-member organisation of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, is often portrayed as the rival regional organisation of SAARC groomed in the Indian leadership with an ill intention of isolating Pakistan, the arch rival of India, from the regional grouping.

The 19th SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan last year was postponed due to India as the latter wanted to strengthen BIMSTEC. But it also failed to make the desired headway; the failure of its 15th ministerial meeting is a testimony to this.

All the seven member nations had expressed their readiness to sign the MoU at the 17th session of the BIMSTEC SOM held in Kathmandu in February this year.

The agreement was expected to be signed at the third BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting in March this year, but the meeting did not take place.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in a post-meeting press meet that Nepal has proposed to hold the Energy Ministers’ Meeting in early 2018, and there would be efforts to sign the MoU.

The MoU facilitates the BIMSTEC countries in exchanging power.

This deal is in line with the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation, which aims to set up a South Asian Regional Grid for cross-border power trade.

The Ministerial Meeting decided to sign the BIMSTEC FTAA also at the earliest possible date. It has decided to finalise the Technology Transfer Agreement among the member countries, Motor Vehicle Agreement and Trade Facilitation Agreement at the earliest.

The meeting has agreed to establish BIMSTEC Energy Centre, Environment Centre, and Culture Centre in the near future, as well as formulate an Eminent Person’s Group (EPG) to recommend the future action plan of the sub-regional body.

The meeting appointed Sahidul Islam of Bangladesh as the General Secretary of the BIMSTEC. He has replaced Sumith Nakandala of Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had inaugurated the meeting attended by Indian   Foreign Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Bangladeshi foreign minister  Abdul Hassan Mohmood Ali, Ravi Karunanayake of Sri Lanka, Damcho Dorji of Bhutan, assistant minister U Kyaaw Tin of Myanmar, Virasakdi Futrakul of Thiland and Nepal’s Deputy and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara.

Nepal is the current chair of BIMSTEC – established on June 6, 1997.

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