M A I N   N E W S

PM lays out contours of BIMSTEC cooperation
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 9
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today unveiled his vision of linking South Asia to Southeast Asia.
He made a strong pitch for using BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) to improve land connectivity by building road and rail network, step up people-to-people contacts through film festivals and make the region a trade hub by innovative Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement.

The Prime Minister’s remarks came when he hosted lunch for BIMSTEC Ministers who had come here for attending a Ministerial conference of the new regional outfit, set up in June 1997.

India is holding the second BIMSTEC summit here on February 8 next year.

The Prime Minister suggested that BIMSTEC be converted into an innovative and forward-looking organisation aiming at realising the vision of the founders of BIMSTEC. This vision should be translated into concrete areas of work.

The Prime Minister stated that BIMSTEC could be the building block for the larger East Asian community.

The FTA would be a major step forward in this direction and it should be signed at the earliest by all member countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The timeline set for the framework agreement to begin implementation of the fast track was July 1, 2006, the MEA spokesman said.

he areas for which the agreement had still to be arrived were those relating to rules of origin and product-specific rules. FTA negotiations by their very nature were difficult, a senior MEA official said.

“However, in the BIMSTEC FTA negotiations, all delegations see light at the end of the tunnel. It does not seem as if the problems are insurmountable.

“What would be required is to be speed up and have more meetings, to have meetings at various levels. The goal post is the second Summit to finalise the FTA,” Mr Bhagwant Bishnoi, Joint Secretary (MER) in the MEA said.

The just-concluded BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting decided to conclude the FTA before the New Delhi summit. It also took some other decisions as follows:

India will host a BIMSTEC energy centre in India and a technology transfer exchange facility for enhancing cooperation in technology exchange, scientific research and R&D.

A BIMSTEC cultural, industries commission and observatory to be set up in Bhutan.

India offered as part of the people-to-people contact to hold a BIMSTEC Film Festival likely towards the end of the year.

A BIMSTEC tourism information centre as well as a BIMSTEC Tourism Fund would be set up in India. 




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