Rationalization of areas of cooperation of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and draft Charter of the organization were deliberated and a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between the BIMSTEC Secretariat and the Asian Development Bank was agreed on during the 2nd meeting of the (BIMSTEC) Permanent Working Committee (BPWC) hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo on 10 and 11 October 2019. The deliberations were attended by all BIMSTEC Member States namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the BIMSTEC Secretariat. The meeting was chaired by Mr P.M. Amza Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In his opening remarks, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha emphasized the importance of individual and collective efforts of Member States in making BIMSTEC a more robust organization. He noted with concern that BIMSTEC which entered its third decade, is yet to reap benefits of the full socio-economic potential of the region – with intra- regional trade at only 3.7% and investment approximately 5%. He urged delegations to actively seek to understand what holds the organization back – imagination, resources or political will. As current BIMSTEC Chair, Sri Lanka saw as crucial in re-energizing the organization, the early finalization of the BIMSTEC Charter and the rationalization of the sectors in order to maximize utilization of resources and to make BIMSTEC a result oriented organization delivering tangible benefits to all its people. While extending his appreciation for the solidarity shown by member countries of BIMSTEC towards Sri Lanka in the aftermath of Easter attacks, he said Sri Lanka will forge closer cooperation, especially in the areas of counter terrorism and transnational crimes. He also emphasized the importance of BIMSTEC working closely with various international organizations such as the IORA, ASEAN and the ADB.
The Secretary General of BIMSTEC, Ambassador M Shahidul Islam, in his remarks, referring to the Leaders decisions at the 4th BIMSTEC Summit in Kathmandu in August 2018 pertaining to institutional reforms, reinvigorating sectoral activities through the rationalization of the areas of cooperation and a BIMSTEC Charter, emphasized the need to place before the Fifth BIMSTEC Summit to be held in Colombo some concrete outcome for endorsement, rather than presenting the status of work in progress. He said the BPWC is composed of senior level officials of Member States, who act as BIMSTEC National Focal Points in their respective capitals, and hence could produce the maximum.
Following the decision made at the 4th BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu to expand the institutional capacity of BIMSTEC through financing and human resources, the BPWC further deliberated on the new tier of directors to be appointed to the Secretariat. Sri Lanka is also eligible to nominate a Director to the BIMSTEC Secretariat in June 2020. An updated draft template of the Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Centres/Entities, the draft calendar of activities/events-2020 and the Secretariat’s estimated budget for FY 2020, was also considered at the meeting. The meeting concluded with all Member States reaffirming their commitment towards achieving the objectives of BIMSTEC, which sets the spring board for the 3rd Meeting of the BPWC, scheduled to be held in January/February 2020.
The BIMSTEC Secretary General Ambassador Shahidul Islam also called on Foreign Secretary on the sidelines of the meeting and discussed modalities aimed at strengthening the institutional and operational framework of BIMSTEC. Foreign Secretary Aryasinha assured the Secretary General that Sri Lanka was fully committed to help make BIMSTEC an imaginative robust organization that serves the aspirations of its people, rather than being pre-occupied with routine administrative details.