Bimstec leaders will give a big push to make the regional grouping more effective one during its fourth Summit in Kathmandu with a special focus on free trade agreement (FTA), officials said.
They will discuss ways how the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) can emerge as a distinct Bay of Bengal Community without compromising its unique role as the bridge between South Asia and South East Asia.
"Much remains unexploited despite having huge potentials though there have been some significant achievements," an official told UNB.
He said they will try to find out concrete ways to have comprehensive connectivity, boosting regional trade, cooperation in the energy sector, and a joint fight against poverty, as areas of Bimstec cooperation that can benefit the 1.5 billion-strong population.
The fourth Bimstec Summit with the participation of the Heads of State/Government of Member States will be held in Kathmandu, Nepal on August 30 and 31, foreign ministry officials said.
Nepal has assumed the Chairmanship of Bimstec after its third Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in March 2014.
Formal opening of the summit will take place in Hotel Soaltee.
All the heads of state/government will make their opening remarks during a programme chaired by Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
The Summit will review progress achieved so far in the areas of cooperation and provide guidance to the future work of the organization, officials said.
Just few days ahead of the Summit, heads of missions of member countries in New Delhi stressed on the need for early conclusion of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.
The Bimstec member countries are Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
Some13 years after the framework agreement was finalised, free trade agreement is still on negotiation table.
Officials hope that the Bimstec leaders will show some ways and give common directives to help conclusion of the FTA.
A knowledge paper prepared by core group of experts from Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) made several policy recommendations for a thorough renewal and rejuvenation of Bimstec as the premier regional grouping, committed to securing greater cooperation and integration in the next decade.
The FICCI paper states that Bimstec needs strategic thrusts in select priority sectors if it is keen to emerge as a result-oriented, effective and influential institution.
This macro goal will be achieved by concluding negotiations for FTA agreements and trade facilitation, strengthening infrastructure linkages, deepening regional transport connectivity, facilitating cross-border trade and investment, and tourism, enhancing private sector participation and competitiveness, supporting regional power trading, developing human resources through mutual cooperation, protecting environment and promoting sustainable use of shared natural resources, creating the Bay of Bengal Community (BoBC) and, promoting all-round cooperation in 'soft power' areas, the FICCI document reads.
President of Nepal Bidya Devi Bhandari will meet leaders of BIMSTEC Member States and host a luncheon in their honour on August 30.
The Prime Minister of Nepal will host a dinner with cultural program in the same evening.
The leaders will witness the signing ceremony of the legal instrument of BIMSTEC and consider the draft Kathmandu Declaration of the Summit on August 31.
On Friday, Bimstec leaders will hold an informal meeting at Hotel Soaltee. Following the event, the heads of government will participate in the closing ceremony of the summit, where the Bimstec Kathmandu Declaration will be adopted.
Meanwhile, the Nineteenth Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) of Bimstec was held on Tuesday in Kathmandu while the Sixteenth Ministerial Meeting of Bimstec will be held on Wednesday.
Foreign secretaries from the member countries took part in the meeting chaired by Nepalese Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi.
They prepared the agenda for the 4th Bimstec Summit.
The meeting also prepared a draft for Kathmandu Declaration that will be endorsed by a ministerial-level meeting on Wednesday, said a diplomatic source.
Bimstec foreign ministers will discuss agendas including finding ways to make Bimstec effective and result-oriented.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to leave for Kathmandu on Thursday morning to attend the Summit of the 21-year-old regional grouping.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam will brief media about PM's participation at the Summit, said an official.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali, in a recent panel discussion organized by FICCI in New Delhi said the foreign policy initiatives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government are focused on building stronger regional economic and technical cooperation.
Bangladesh sees the Bimstec forum as a tool for economic development through regional integration, he said.
The envoy mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was one of the four founding leaders who had inspired the launch of the Bimstec in 1997.
"Her government attaches a high priority to transforming the Bimstec process into a more dynamic, and effective organization— and to strengthen the institutional mechanism to bring about more results," he said, reports UNB.