Foreign Minister of Nepal stresses resilient BIMSTEC needed to catalyze growth

By Laxman Datt Pant

Foreign Minister of Nepal stresses resilient BIMSTEC needed to catalyze growth

Underscoring that the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) region faces common challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, food insecurity and is vulnerable to terrorism, organized crime, illicit drugs, and human trafficking, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, stressed that a resilient BIMSTEC is needed to catalyze growth and boost development taking into account the special needs of the least developing countries and landlocked developing countries.

Minister Gyawali was addressing the 17th BIMSTEC ministerial meeting that took place on April 1 and was hosted virtually by Sri Lanka as the current Chair of the BIMSTEC. The seven-member states of BIMSTEC include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Highlighting that fighting poverty and hunger and ensuring decent jobs and sustainable livelihood sources for the region’s people remain as important as ever, Minister Gyawali remarked, “Building on the decisions made at the 4th Summit in Kathmandu, BIMSTEC has made notable progress in institution building, improving administrative and financial management, rationalizing the areas of cooperation, advancing sectoral activities, and enhancing the capacity of the Secretariat.” The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unusual challenges never before experienced and it will potentially reduce hard-earned development gains including in the achievement of the sustainable development goals, he added.

  • Minister Gyawali reminded members that effective and timely implementation of the BIMSTEC Poverty Plan of Action (PPA) in line with the Agenda 2030 is highly imperative to eradicate poverty from the region
  • Back in 2012, the high-level meeting of ministers and senior officials of the region endorsed a PPA through the ‘Kathmandu declaration’
  • While endorsing the PPA, member states guaranteed that they would incorporate the appropriate aspects of the plan in the respective countries’ plans and programs
  • The PPA involves increased cooperation in technology transfer, the sharing of best practices, the promotion of trade and tourism, capacity building and improved transportation and communication among member states
  • While a well-established transport connectivity network is essential to realize a regional integration process, endorsement of the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity is crucial to facilitate greater connectivity in all modes of transport
  • The BIMSTEC Free Trade Area, Motor Vehicle Agreement, Energy Grid Interconnection, and Business Visa Facilitation are among a number of issues pending negotiations
  • The BIMSTEC Charter is expected to be signed at the 5th Summit paving the way towards a sound legal foundation for the regional body

Minister Gyawali was of the view that enhancing capacities in sustainable agriculture, including that of cooperatives and smallholder farmers, would contribute to boosting green growth and poverty reduction efforts. “Nepal has completed the internal procedures to sign the BIMSTEC Charter and the memorandum of understanding on Mutual Cooperation between Diplomatic Academies,” he added.

Highlighting that regional growth and prosperity require deeper cooperation, Minister Gyawali concluded, “We must focus on such core areas as connectivity, energy, trade, investment, tourism, and agriculture. Trade and transit facilitations should be our top priority. It is equally important to encourage and facilitate the private sector by ensuring enabling environment for them to trade and invest in the region. We must accord high priority to promote transport networks, sustainable energy and power grid interconnections, and information highways.”