Fifth BIMSTEC Summit proposed for January next yearThe Summit due to be held later this month was postponed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Sri Lanka, the current chair of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), has proposed to host the fifth summit of the regional grouping in the first half of January 2021, subject to the improved Covid-19 situation.
The proposal was made during the 21st Session of Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) on Wednesday.
Member states will discuss later on the proposal and finalise the date and other agendas like holding the ministerial level meeting in Colombo ahead of the Summit, Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, told the Post after the meeting.
The Summit, initially, was proposed for later this month, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was postponed.
Member states agreed on Sri Lanka’s proposal to host the Summit and the ministerial level meeting next year, whose date will be confirmed later, Bairagi said.
After the Summit in Sri Lanka, the chairmanship of the regional bloc will be handed over to Thailand for the period of 2021-22.
The meeting, which took place at the foreign secretary level of all seven member states, also finalised the much-awaited BIMSTEC charter, reviewed the progress made in the last two years after Kathmandu Summit and discussed issues of legal instruments of the regional grouping and how to move on to establish the regional centrse and mechanisms, according to Bairagi.
Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar are the member states of BIMSTEC that is often touted as a parallel of another regional organization–South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation or SAARC.
The 21st session of Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) took stock of progress made in various areas of cooperation under BIMSTEC, endorsed the appointment of next secretary general, finalised the draft of the BIMSTEC charter and the draft of the Memorandum of Association on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Centers/Entities, among others, according to a foreign ministry statement.
In the absence of a dedicated charter, BIMSTEC is running with the spirit of the Bangkok Declaration of 1997 and the charter is now in the final stage, which is expected to come out from the Colombo Summit.
Officials said that besides finalizing the charter, the meeting of senior officials also recommended signing of the Convention on Cooperation on Criminal and Legal Matters among the member states during the Summit.
Similarly, member states have also agreed to sign an agreement on Bimstec Technology Transfer Facilities, Cooperation among Diplomatic Training Academies and persons, building templates on BIMSTEC centers, entities and mechanism and finalisation of BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan during the Colombo Summit.
The foreign secretary level meeting also approved the nomination of new secretary general from Bhutan. Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, hosts the BIMSTEC Secretariat.
The current Secretary General of BIMSTEC is Ambassador Mohammad Shahidul Islam of Bangladesh, who will be replaced by Tenzin Lekphell, a distinguished bureaucrat-turned politician from Bhutan from April next year.