KATHMANDU. The 17th Session of BIMSTEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) has concluded in Kathmandu on Tuesday, with an understanding to host the summit meeting by the end of 2017. The SOM meeting represented by senior foreign ministry officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand gave concurrence to Nepal’s proposal to host the fourth BIMSTEC Summit in October/November in Kathmandu. As the current chair of BIMSTEC, Nepal is hosting the fourth BIMSTEC Summit.
“Nepal has proposed to host the BIMSTEC Summit in October or November, making sure that the date does not clash with other major regional events. The date of the summit will be finalized in consultation with other member states,” said Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi.
Addressing a press conference after the conclusion of SOM on Tuesday evening, Foreign Secretary Bairagi said the first-ever BIMSTEC meeting that Nepal convened after assuming the chairmanship of the sub-regional body also decided to host the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in June, 2017 in which member states are expected to finalize various key agreements on priority areas including the establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection.
The BIMSTEC member states have agreed to sign an MoU for setting up the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection at the Third Energy Minister’s Meeting, which Nepal is scheduled to host in March 30-31 after completing the internal process.
Foreign Secretary Bairagi said the meeting took important decisions to revitalize BIMSTEC process as outlined in the Outcome Document of the BIMSTEC Leaders’ Retreat held in Goa, India on 16 October, 2016, and its 16-point Agenda of Action. The agenda of the SOM included the important priority sectors such as connectivity, trade, tourism, investment, energy, technology transfers.
While deciding to conclude the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement at the earliest, the SOM tasked the Eminent Persons Groups (EPG) to work out the BIMSTEC vision-a roadmap for the Future Directions of BIMSTEC in line with the UN Agenda 2030.
The meeting decided to constitute separate expert-level working groups for BIMSTEC to conclude Trade Facilitation Agreement, Agreement on Mutual Assistance on Custom Matters and BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement. The meeting also decided to form BIMSTEC sub-group on the cooperation on countering radicalization and terrorism, BIMSTEC Working Group on Disaster Management and BIMSTEC Working Group on Blue Economy.
Baragi said the meeting decided to mark the 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC by organizing various activities at the BIMSTEC Secretariat as well as in the capital city of respective member states so as to enhance its visibility. Important activities among them include launching commemorative stamps by the BIMSTEC member states on June 6, 2017, organizing programs/presentation/seminars with the universities and other higher institutes of the member states, publication of a commemorative book on BIMSTEC and organization of BIMSTEC Trade Fair.
Nepal has offered to host an expert group meeting on the implementation of the Poverty Action Plan adopted at the second BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Poverty Alleviation held in Kathmandu in 2012 for consideration by the Third BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Poverty Alleviation scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in the third quarter of 2017.
Among other things, the SOM meeting approved the Report of the 7th Meeting of the Joint Working Group on the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat which finalized its administrative and financial matters.
My Republica, 8th Feb 2016, 11.00