On Wednesday, an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that India will become the “security pillar” for the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). The statement was given at the conclusion of the grouping’s summit on Colombo. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also attended the meeting, emphasized that countries need to focus on their regional security in the context of the recent Russian-Ukraine conflict. The seven-member group that includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal also adopted a plan for easy connectivity of the transport and they also decided to focus on specific areas.
Addressing the opening session of the summit, PM Narendra Modi gave statements speaking in Hindi, he said “Our nations and our people are still trying to deal with the hardships that the Covid-19 pandemic caused. The crises in Europe over the last few weeks have raised questions about the stability of international law and order… These recent incidents are a warning and a reminder for us to give more priority to our regional security… Our focus should be on making this architecture stronger.”
PM Modi also called for a Free Trade Agreement among the member countries of BIMSTEC. He added that it is necessary to have a coastal shipping ecosystem and electricity grid interconnectivity, as they are two of the important aspects.
At the summit, a Master Plan for Transport Connectivity that will provide a framework for regional and domestic connectivity was also declared. Rudrendra Tandon the MEA’s Joint Secretary in charge of the BIMSTEC and South Asian region, stated “The signing of the Charter was the main outcome of this summit. With the Charter, the BIMSTEC now has an international personality. It has an emblem, it has a flag. It has a formally listed purpose and principles that it is going to adhere to. It represents a significant evolution of the grouping. From our perspective signing of the Charter was the most important outcome.”
The summit also drew attention to Myanmar, as the country is ruled by the military and that is a leading violator of human rights in the world. Justifying the inclusion of Myanmar in the BIMSTEC, Mr. Tandon told that as BIMSTEC is a multilateral regional cooperation platform, its aim is to focus on economic and development cooperation. He further added that for the success of BIMSTEC, all the member countries need to be present and Myanmar is a member that has very important geography.
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