Dhaka June 7 (newsin.asia): Sumith Nakandala, Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), has called upon member states to eschew parochialism and pettiness and develop pluralistic values to help BIMSTEC realize its full potential as an engine of economic development in the Bay of Bengal region.
“ Political commitment alone will not help regional cooperation succeed. What is more necessary is a non-parochial mind set; and a transcending of pettiness supplemented by a deep understanding of the pluralistic values of the region,” Nakandala said addressing a function to celebrate the 20 th. anniversary of BIMSTEC in Dhaka on Wednesday.
He pointed out that a non-parochial mindset, broad mindedness and pluralistic values have been the “intangible heritage” of the peoples of the Bay of Bengal region for centuries.
If these values are revived, BIMSTEC will be a model for the rest of the world.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to that noble cause, which is essentially a social justice project for the people in the Bay of Bengal,” Nakandala said.
On BIMSTEC’s achievements in the last 20 years, Nakandala said that these have been “modest”.
“One of the most important achievements is the establishment of the BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat. In this regard I express my deep gratitude to the Government of Bangladesh as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh for its commitment and leadership in operationalizing the BIMSTEC Secretariat,” he said.
Nakandala, a member of the Sri Lankan Foreign Service of Ambassador rank, is BIMSTEC’s first Secretary General.
The other important achievement is the conclusion of the Headquarters Agreement between the Government of Bangladesh and the BIMSTEC Secretariat which reiterated the continued commitment of the Government of Bangladesh to promoting regional cooperation and integration in the Bay of Bengal region,” he said.
“For the last two years, the Secretariat has facilitated 56 Meetings in different sectoral cooperation, which gave added momentum to the organization. As of June 1, 2017, I am glad to state, the BIMSTEC Secretariat has acquired its full strength comprising three directors from Bangladesh, Bhutan and India. India deputed its Director to the Secretariat.”
“ We have been able to conclude the BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study (BTILS) Updating and Enhancement” and convened the Inception Meeting of the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Working Group in Bangkok in 2016. We will continue to work with the Asian Development Bank in terms of preparing the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Connectivity, as proposed by Thailand,” the Secretary General said.
In the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime sector, the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters is ready for signature. Currently, BIMSTEC is negotiating the BIMSTEC Convention against Trafficking in Persons.
In the Energy Cooperation sector, the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection is ready for signature.
Need for Leadership
“I have held the view that no regional groupings will succeed without effective leadership. We are extremely grateful to the Honorable Prime Minister of India for providing that leadership and hosting the BIMSTEC Leaders’ Retreat in Goa, India on 16 October 2016. The Leaders’ Retreat provided added political commitment and momentum which are necessary for achieving the desired goals of the organization,” Nakandala said.
“ The Leaders at the Retreat agreed to conclude, the Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between and among BIMSTEC Member Countries, the BIMSTEC Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement, among others,” he said.
The other important landmark event was the convening of the First Meeting of the BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs in March 2017. This provided a rare opportunity for BIMSTEC Member States to look at the Bay of Bengal as a strategic security space and to address perennial problems related to human security.
In the People-to-People Contact sector, the BIMSTEC Secretariat, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the Chulalongkorn University, hosted a successful International Conference on “Strengthening Cultural Linkages in the Bay of Bengal Region.
“I was fortunate to meet one of the co-founder of BIMSTEC, Ambassador Kobsak Chutikul recently, who stated that BIMSTEC needs to think big. In response, I explained to him that this is preciously what we are doing at the Secretariat,” Nakandala said.
“The third decade is extremely crucial for achieving the goals set by our Leaders at the Retreat held in Goa in 2016. One of the key goals is the early setting up of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area,” he pointed out.
“One of the leading authors on the Bay of Bengal has said that the Bay of Bengal was once the heart of global history. There is no doubt that we will re-assert this in the third decade of BIMSTEC,” Nakandala said.
(The featured image at the top is that of BIMSTEC Secretary General Sumith Nakandala)