Kathmandu, Aug 11 (IANS) Bimstec nations on Friday called for enhancing transport and communication links to boost regional integration in the Bay of Bengal region.
“We emphasise that enhanced transport and communication is the key to regional integration and agree to expedite comments and observations on the Bimstec Framework Agreement on Transit, Transshipment and Movement of Vehicular Traffic (Bimstec Motor Vehicle Agreement) as well as the Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement with a view to negotiate and conclude these at the earliest,” a joint statement issued after the 15th Ministerial Meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) here said.
It said the participants in the meeting took note of Thailand’s draft Concept Paper on Bimstec Master Plan for Connectivity and tasked the Bimstec Transport Connectivity Working Group (BTCWG) to develop the draft master plan for further consideration.
Bimstec comprises seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
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.
The bloc brings together 1.5 billion people or 21 per cent of the world’s population.
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.
“We express our appreciation to the Asian Development Bank for conducting the Bimstec Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study and note the progress made so far in implementation of the recommendations of the study as well as look forward to its successful implementation,” the joint statement said.
Participants in the Ministerial meeting also agreed to constitute an ad-hoc expert group to establish the Bimstec Buddhist Tourist Circuit and Temple Tourist Circuit in the region, it stated.
In terms of people-to-people contacts, the member nations expressed satisfaction over third meeting of the Bimsted Network of the Policy Think Tanks held in Dhaka in April and urged authorities to implement the recommendations of the meeting in order to intensify people-to-people contact at various levels.
“We express our gratitude to the Government of Thailand for hosting the First International Conference on Strengthening Cultural Linkages in the Bay of Bengal region, as part of celebration of Bimstec 20th anniversary, for deeper understanding among the people,” the statement said.
“We note with satisfaction that the Secretariat has organized two Bimstec Foundation Lectures and 10 Round-Table Meetings to promote the people-to-people contact among the member states,” it added.