The two-day BIMSTEC summit in Nepal concluded on Friday with pledges by the member states to boost ties in the fields of economy, technology, blue resources and fight against natural calamities and terrorism.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought help of the regional grouping in resolving the Rohingya crisis.The fourth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit ended in Kathmandu with several decisions, including setting up a development fund, establishing seamless multi-modal connectivity and taking a comprehensive approach to prevent terror financing, terrorist activities and counter radicalisation.
Sri Lanka took the responsibility of the Chair of BIMSTEC in the concluding meeting held at the Soaltee Hotel in Kathmandu. Prime Minister of Nepal KP Sharma Oli handed over the chairmanship of the BIMSTEC to Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena.
Delegatations led by Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of Myanmar Win Myint, President of Sri Lanka Maitripala Sirisena, Chief Advisor to the Interim Government of Bhutan Gyalpo Tshering Wangchuk and Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha attended the meeting.
The Kathmandu Declaration -- Towards a Peaceful, Prosperous and Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region -- directed the relevant ministries and national agencies of the BIMSTEC countries’ governments to explore the possibility of establishing a development fund.
The member states agreed to create the fund ‘at an appropriate time’ with voluntary contributions from the member-countries, which will be utilised for research and planning of BIMSTEC and financing of projects, programmes and other activities of BIMSTEC centres and entities.
The leaders pledged to establish seamless multi-modal transportation linkages and smooth, synchronised and simplified transit facilities through the development, expansion and modernisation of highways, railways, waterways, sea routes and airways in the region.It has also been decided to speed up the countries’ efforts to conclude the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and the BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement as soon as possible.
In this context, it called for early adoption of a BIMSTEC Master Plan for connectivity.
The summit asked the BIMSTEC Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting and its subsidiary bodies, including the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC), to expedite finalisation of all related agreements of the BIMSTEC FTA.
The two-day regional gathering expressed satisfaction with the progress of negotiation on the Agreement on Trade in Goods and the Agreement on Customs Cooperation and directed the concerned ministries and agencies of BIMSTEC countries to participate regularly in Trade Negotiating Committee meetings.
Leaders decided to revitalise activities of BIMSTEC Business Forum and BIMSTEC Economic Forum to further strengthen cooperation between government and private sector for promotion of trade and investment.
They asked the expert group on BIMSTEC visa matters to continue negotiation for finalisation of the modalities for the visa facilitation.
They condemned terror attacks in all parts of the world, including in member states, and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
The regional leaders called for a comprehensive approach to preventing financing of terrorists and terrorist actions from territories under their control, blocking recruitment and cross-border movement of terrorists, countering radicalization and misuse of internet for purposes of terrorism and dismantling terrorist safe havens.
The summit looked forward to the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and called upon the member states for its early ratification.
Expressing satisfaction with ratification of BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking by many member states, they asked the remaining countries to do so.
The Summit decided to hold a meeting of home ministers of the BIMSTEC countries as part of promoting cooperation and coordination on counter terrorism and transnational crimes.
Considering that the BIMSTEC countries are prone to cyclones, earthquakes and floods, the summit decided to establish an inter-governmental expert group to develop a plan of action to improve preparedness and coordination for timely response to natural disasters in the Bay of Bengal Region.