Call for greater connectivity among Bay of Bengal nations

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New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) As India continues to push ahead with its interactions with the Bimstec nations, a regional policy dialogue here has called for setting up of an empowered working committee which can function as a platform to push ahead the agenda of connectivity in the sub-regional bloc.

The dialogue on “Connectivity Imperatives in the Bay of Bengal Region”, was organised here by CUTS International, a non-profit organisation, on May 2-3.

The dialogue saw participation from a cross-section of government, private players, multilateral agencies, civil society, think-tanks and the media from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal to deliberate on issues to facilitate connectivity in the region by charting out a forward looking agenda, to push for it at local, sub-national, national and regional levels.

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CUTS International Secretary General Pradeep Mehta emphasised the importance of distribution of gains from regional connectivity, so as to be inclusive of women and other marginalised and vulnerable communities in the region, according to a statement issued to the media on Friday.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) came into existence in June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.

It comprises seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The main objective of Bimstec is technical and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the rim of the Bay of Bengal.

With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) virtually rendered ineffective as a bloc, largely due to non-cooperation on the part of Pakistan in a number of areas, India has been giving more importance to Bimstec in recent times.

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The bloc brings together 1.5 billion people or 21 per cent of the world’s population and has a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

India is the lead country for cooperation in four priority areas: counter-terrorism and transnational crime, transport and communication, tourism and environment, and disaster management.

At the CUTS International dialogue, Jaya Singh Verma of the British Department for International Development stressed public-private linkage as a crucial element for advancing the connectivity agenda.

Robert Gaverick, Minister-Counsellor for Economic, Environmental, Science and Technology Affairs of the US Embassy here, emphasised on the need for a regional commitment to international laws, treaties and rule-based regime for trade and connectivity, according to the statement.

Toe Aung Myint, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce of Myanmar, said that his country is keen to align with the current discourse on the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) connectivity and is looking forward to the completion of various connectivity projects with India, which would help in bridging gaps between south and southeast Asia.

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New Delhi is working on a trilateral highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand.

The two-day dialogue came up with concrete recommendations to enhance physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity among countries in the region.



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