India pitches for infusing new energies into BIMSTEC grouping

India pitches for infusing new energies into BIMSTEC grouping

New Delhi: India on Thursday called on seven-nation BIMSTEC grouping to infuse new energies, resources and a fresh commitment to bolster cooperation among the Bay of Bengal countries. The appeal was made by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while hosting his counterparts from BIMSTEC member states at a two-day retreat in the national capital. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) brings together seven countries of South and Southeast Asia for multifaceted cooperation. Besides India, BIMSTEC comprises Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. Jaishankar said BIMSTEC should harbour higher aspirations.

"For India, BIMSTEC represents the intersection of its 'Neighbourhood First' outlook, the 'Act East Policy' and the 'SAGAR' vision," Jaishankar said in his opening remarks on the first day of the retreat. "Each of these endeavours is being proposed with a specific focus on the Bay of Bengal, where collaborative potential has long remained under-realised," he said. "Our challenge is to change that for the better, and to do so rapidly," he added. India has been making concerted efforts to make BIMSTEC a vibrant forum for regional cooperation as initiatives under SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) were not moving forward for a variety of reasons. India has been cooperating with the countries of the Indian Ocean region under the broader policy framework of SAGAR or Security and Growth for all in the Region. BIMSTEC foreign ministers' retreat is aimed at exchanging ideas openly, candidly and fruitfully. "We all benefited from the last such exercise in Bangkok. This one now has a particular importance as it serves to prepare strong outcomes for the summit to be held later in the year," Jaishankar said.

"Our message should be clear - that we are all determined to infuse new energies, new resources and a new commitment into cooperation among the Bay of Bengal nations," he said. Thailand is the current chair of BIMSTEC and it is set to host the annual summit of the grouping later this year. Jaishankar said the first part of the discussions in the retreat will revolve around connectivity, cooperation in trade and business, collaboration in health and space, digital public infrastructure, capacity building and societal exchanges. "I hope in the second part of our deliberations, we could focus more sharply on the possible outcomes of the forthcoming summit," he said. BIMSTEC foreign ministers had last met in a similar format in Bangkok in July last year. The charter of the grouping came into effect on May 20. "Global and regional developments also make it imperative that we find more solutions amongst ourselves. There are longstanding goals such as capacity building and economic cooperation that have acquired a new urgency," Jaishankar said. "And not least, a grouping that is so complementary and so congenial in its membership should surely harbour higher aspirations," he said.

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