BIMSTEC forms Eminent Persons Group to chart out future course of the seven-nation groupingThe panel will suggest a blueprint for what the grouping needs to do in future and ways to strengthen the bloc.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has formed the Eminent Persons Group to provide future direction to the regional body. Each member country has one representative in the EPG whose formal announcement has yet to be made by the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In line with the Bangkok Vision–2030, other commitments and assurances made by the member states in the past, the panel was recently formed. The announcement will come from the BIMSTEC Secretariat, Rishi Raj Adhikari, assistant spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post.
The man credited with setting up the Group is BIMSTEC Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell. The idea, backed by India, was first agreed upon during the 15th BIMSTEC ministerial meeting held in Kathmandu in September 2017.
The meeting had agreed to establish an EPG to recommend a road map for BIMSTEC 2030 Agenda and appreciated the efforts of BIMSTEC Network of Policy Think Tanks (BNPTT) in organising regular consultations to intensify people-to-people contact, read the outcome document of the 15th ministerial meeting.
Former foreign secretary and Nepal's permanent representative to the United Nations Durga Prasad Bhattarai will represent Nepal in the group. Other member states have nominated senior diplomats or former foreign secretaries to the panel. From Sri Lanka, former SAARC Secretary General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, now Additional Secretary to the Sri Lankan President's Presidential Secretariat, is representing the country in the EPG.
The EPG panel will suggest a new blueprint for BIMSTEC regional grouping on what it needs to do in the future, its direction, ways to strengthen the grouping, the projects it should initiate, changes needed to foster regional cooperation, and the projects to be executed under BIMSTEC framework. It will also support the Vision 2030 and the implementation of understandings and agreements reached among the member states in the future, said a Nepali diplomat.
Once all member states submit the names of their representatives, the BIMSTEC Secretariat will announce the formation of the EPG, said Adhikari.
The BIMSTEC Secretariat has called the first meeting of the EPG panel for January 25 next year in Dhaka.
Established on June 6, 1997, the BIMSTEC has seven member states—Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. The regional organisation connects South Asia and Southeast Asia and is widely seen as an alternative to another regional organisation, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
“We commend the BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee for finalising the Terms of References for Eminent Persons Group on future directions of BIMSTEC and approve the terms of reference,” read the joint statement issued after 19th ministerial meeting held in Bangkok on March 9 earlier this year.
During the BIMSTEC foreign minister’s retreat in July in Thailand, the member states welcomed the progress on setting up the Group to chart out the road map for ensuring greater benefits to member countries and their peoples.
Delivering a message marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of the BIMSTEC, its secretary general Tenzin Lekphell had said that BIMSTEC seeks to re-visit and re-examine its working methods to better serve the people. The inter-regional organisation works in 14 areas of cooperation—trade and investment, technology, energy, transportation and communication, tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural cooperation, environment and disaster management, public health, people-to-people contact, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism and transnational crime and climate change.