BIMSTEC summit skips Rohingya issue

Staff Correspondent

4 September, 2018 12:00 AM printer

The fourth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit recently held in Nepal did not have the Rohingya issue on its agenda as the regional body is still not ready to deal with such an issue.

No member state came up with any proposal or made any request to or not to include the Rohingya issue in the agenda of the summit, BIMSTEC Secretary General M Shahidul Islam said on Monday afternoon at a press briefing at the Conference Hall of the BIMSTEC Secretariat in the capital.

The BIMSTEC secretary-general said the member states did not raise the issue at the summit out of their diplomatic maturity as the BIMSTEC is still not ready to deal with an issue such as this.      

“Nobody denies the crisis and Bangladesh and Myanmar should remain bilaterally engaged to resolve the issue,” he said.

Shahidul Islam said Nepal prepared the agenda of the Summit held on August 30-31 as the host, which was accepted by the member states.

In reply to a query, Shahidul said every organisation has its own characteristics and BIMSTEC is meant for the technical and economic cooperation.

But cooperation in trade, investment and technology should also move on as Bangladesh and Myanmar have not stopped trade despite the differences they have on the Rohingya issue, he said. 

The secretary-general also termed the Summit a very successful one as it reviewed the achievements of past 20 years.

He said they will prepare a follow-up chart on the basis of the Summit Declaration.

“We will be in constant consultation with Bangladesh, the Lead Country for Trade and Investment sector, to resume FTA negotiations as soon as possible,” he added.

The secretary-general said he will work with Sri Lanka, the new Chair of the BIMSTEC, to resume discussion on visa matters to facilitate movement of businessmen, investors, scholars and tourists across the region.

Major agreements that are pending signature or ratification will receive priority attention to put in place necessary legal structure for BIMSTEC cooperation, he maintained.

Shahidul said the summit also gave directives to expedite the conclusion of pending agreements and created a number of inter-governmental expert groups to revitalize sectoral cooperation.

As regards institutional reform, the Summit decided to establish BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee to deal with administrative and financial matters of the organization, he said.

The secretary-general also mentioned that the summit made a decision to prepare the preliminary draft of the BIMSTEC charter, develop Rules of Procedure for the BIMSTEC Mechanisms.

The summit also decided to explore the possibility of establishing a BIMSTEC Development Fund (BDF) to finance studies and projects to be carried out by BIMSTEC, he noted.

Shahidul mentioned that the leaders at the summit directed respective national authorities to speed up efforts to conclude the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and the BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement as early as possible.

He noted that the Summit called for an early conclusion of BIMSTEC Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations, further strengthen Government–Private sector cooperation for the promotion of trade and investment.

It also directed to resume discussion on finalization of the modalities for the BIMSTEC Visa Facilitation including BIMSTEC Business Visa Scheme, he said.

They also reiterated their commitment to further strengthen BIMSTEC for achieving peace, prosperity and sustainable development in the Bay of Bengal region, M Shahidul Islam said.