Sri Lanka to host the BIMSTEC summit virtually; PM Modi to attend

BIMSTEC

The 5th edition of BIMSTEC is being hosted by Sri Lanka this year and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending virtually. The summit scheduled for March 30 is in virtual mode.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), meetings of BIMSTEC Senior Officials (SOM) are scheduled to take place on March 28, and this will be followed by the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers (BMM) meeting a day ahead of the summit on March 30.

The leaders of the BIMSTEC are expected to discuss the establishment of basic institutional mechanisms and structures of the group. Also on the table for discussion will be the challenges related to the global pandemic of COVID-19 faced by the BIMSTEC members, which will be on the agenda.

The main focus is expected to be on regional integration in the Bay of Bengal where China continues to expand its presence. The next summit is scheduled to take place in Thailand.

What to expect?

The meeting of BIMSTEC is coming at a time when Russia-Ukraine continue their military conflict, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has just concluded an unannounced visit to India, India-Japan and India-Australia had summit level talks with India.

For regional stability and security, the BIMSTEC grouping is expected to review the status of Motor Vehicles Agreement, Coastal Shipping agreement, and to finalize them.

As has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online earlier, during this virtual meet the member countries are expected to approve the BIMSTEC Charter, Master Plan for Transport Connectivity, and Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

When did the last summit take place?

It was in 2018 in Kathmandu, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was there and other leaders of the member countries were present too – Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Myanmar.

This will be the first time that at the multilateral summit, Myanmar’s military leader Gen Min Aung Hlaing, will be present. The army took over in Myanmar last year and it was not invited to attend the annual summit of ASEAN.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, in 2021, Sri Lanka was not able to host the BIMSTEC summit, however, the foreign ministers of the member countries had met virtually and even the NSAs had met to draw up a roadmap for dealing with the common threats in the region.

Strategic Implications

With a huge Chinese presence in the region, the member countries are expected to focus on maritime and coastal security and also to improve connectivity and trade. Collaborative effort at sea among the member countries is very critical and it will help in keeping the sea lanes safe and peaceful. Also, deeper cooperation among the members will help in Blue Economy, agriculture, counter-terrorism and tourism and trade.

(Source: The Financial Express)

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