The 4th BIMSTEC Summit for Peaceful, Prosperous & Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region

Our collective wisdom, thought & vision on the goal of Peaceful, Prosperous & Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region is eloquently captured in the 4th BIMSTEC Summit Declaration”, said K P Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal, the Current Chair of the BIMSTEC addressing the closing session of the 4th edition of BIMSTEC summit held in Kathmandu on August 30 & 31, 2018 under the theme: ‘Towards a Peaceful Prosperous, and Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region’. Oli handed over the chairmanship of the grouping to Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed on establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection to enhance energy cooperation among the member states.

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal,  founded in 1997, accounts for 22% of the global population and has a combined Gross Domestic Product of USD 2.8 trillion. The 1st BIMSTEC summit was held in Thailand in 1997; the 2nd in 2008 in India; and the 3rd in 2014 in Myanmar.

A retreat of India – BIMSTEC leaders was held prior to the BRICS – BIMSTEC Outreach Summit on 16 October 2016 in Goa. On the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of BIMSTEC countries were invited for an interactive Summit with BRICS leaders.

With a commitment to reinvigorate the BIMSTEC process with other leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for enhanced regional connectivity while addressing the 4th BIMSTEC summit on August 30, 2018:  “I believe that there is a big opportunity for connectivity – trade connectivity, economic connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity”, Modi said and added that:

  • “The region is a meeting point for India’s Neighbourhood First, Act East policies,”
  • India was committed to working with the BIMSTEC member states in the critical sector and to combating the menace of terrorism and drug trafficking.
  • BIMSTEC member states, situated between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, face frequent natural disasters such as flood, cyclone and earthquake, and called for “cooperation and coordination” among them in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, “As no single country can move alone for attaining peace, prosperity and development, we need to collaborate and cooperate with each other in this interconnected world”.
  • India would set up a Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies at the Nalanda University for research on art, culture and other subjects in the Bay of Bengal.
  • India will host the International Buddhist Conclave in August 2020 and invited all BIMSTEC leaders to attend the event as Guests of Honour.
  • India was committed to enhance its National Knowledge Network in the field of Digital Connectivity in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal; and plans to extend it to Myanmar and Thailand as well.
  • Modi expected the BIMSTEC member states to attend the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi scheduled for October.
  • Modi also met other leaders on the side-lines of the BIMSTEC Summit and deliberated on various aspects of their bilateral relations.

The 4th BIMSTEC Summit attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Myanmar President U Win Myint, Bhutan’s Chief Justice and Chief Advisor to the interim government Dasho Tshering Wangchuk, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; concluded with Oli presenting Kathmandu declaration as under :

  • Affirms solemn commitment to making the Bay of Bengal Region peaceful, prosperous and sustainable by building on common strengths through collective efforts;
  • Stresses on promoting deeper cooperation in identified core areas in the region as geographical contiguity, abundant natural and human resources, rich historical linkages; cultural heritage and inter-dependence within the economies and societies in the BIMSTEC Member States provide greater opportunity for these.
  • Stresses on ending poverty from the region by 2030 in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Underlines the importance of multidimensional connectivity, which promotes synergy among connectivity frameworks in our region, as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity;
  • Underlines the necessity to provide meaningful support to development process of the least developed and land-locked developing countries in the region recognising their special needs and circumstances
  • Highlights the importance of trade and investment as one of the major contributing factors for fostering economic and social development in the region.
  • Underscores the necessity to ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, welcome the concept note on promoting mountain economies;
  • Emphasizes the importance of blue economy along with management and sustainable use of marine resources in the region;
  • Encourages closer cooperation in: disaster management, agricultural technology exchange, gradual reduction of the impact of climate change, access and sharing of affordable technologies, and ease the visa processing for the people of BIMSTEC member states.
  • Stresses that combating terrorism and transnational organized crimes require sustained efforts and cooperation and comprehensive approach involving active participation and collaboration of the Member States;
  • Stresses the need for a fair, just, rule-based, equitable and transparent international order and reaffirming faith in the multilateralism with the United Nations at the centre and the rule-based international trading system
  • On Institutional reform decides to establish a BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee to deal with administrative and financial matters of the Secretariat and the BIMSTEC Centres and Entities, and explore the possibility of establishing a BIMSTEC Development Fund (BDF);
  • Encourages People-to-People Contacts, Cultural Cooperation and Tourism.
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