New Delhi [India], July 11 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar articulated India's strategic alignment with the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), highlighting its significance within the country's broader geopolitical frameworks like - Neighbourhood First, Act East Policy and SAGAR vision.

" For India, BIMSTEC represents the intersection of its 'Neighbourhood First' outlook, the 'Act East Policy' and the 'SAGAR' vision. Each of these endeavours is being purposed with a specific focus on the Bay of Bengal, where collaborative potential has long remained underrealised," said Jaishankar addressing the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers' Retreat in New Delhi on Thursday.

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He added, "Our challenge is to change that for the better, and to do so rapidly. The retreat is meant to exchange ideas openly, candidly and fruitfully. We all benefited from the last such exercise in Bangkok.

The Minister stressed the Summit's importance, noting, "This one now has a particular importance as it serves to prepare strong outcomes for the Summit to be held later in the year. Our message should be clear - that we are all determined to infuse new energies, new resources and a new commitment into cooperation among the Bay of Bengal nations."

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Highlighting the recent developments within BIMSTEC, Jaishankar noted, "The BIMSTEC Charter, for a start, has come into effect from 20 May this year. Global and regional developments also make it imperative that we find more solutions amongst ourselves."

The retreat, attended by foreign ministers from BIMSTEC member countries, serves as a platform for exchanging ideas and fostering deeper cooperation across various domains including connectivity, trade, health, and digital infrastructure. Jaishankar expressed optimism about the outcomes, stating, "Our hope is that these would be expressed as shared and ambitious BIMSTEC Vision."

"Our discussions, in the first part, will revolve around connectivity, institutional building, cooperation in trade and business, collaboration in health and space, digital public infrastructure, capacity building and societal exchanges, as well as weighing on the merits of new mechanisms," stated Jaishankar, highlighting the breadth of topics under consideration.

The first edition of the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers' Retreat was held in Thailand's Bangkok on 17 July 2023.

"Much has happened since that and this should spur our endeavours to deepen and broaden the activities of the BIMSTEC," he added.

Jaishankar further outlined the next steps, stating, "After the presentation that would be made by Secretary East, I would request all of you, starting with the BIMSTEC Chair, Thailand, to make your comments and your suggestions on the ideas before us, as well as put forth your own views, on how we should take BIMSTEC forward. I hope in the second part of our deliberations, we could focus more sharply on the possible outcomes of the forthcoming Summit. These discussions would be led by our Thai colleague as the BIMSTEC Chair and the host of the Summit."

BIMSTEC is a regional organization that connects countries around the Bay of Bengal to promote economic growth, trade, and cooperation in areas like transportation, energy, and counter-terrorism.

It aims to strengthen relationships and foster economic development among its member states, which include- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

BIMSTEC stands as a beacon of regional collaboration, striving to achieve rapid economic development and social progress through joint initiatives among its member states. Founded on principles of equality and partnership, BIMSTEC aims to address common challenges and capitalise on shared opportunities across seven strategic sectors.

Each member nation leads specific sectors, reflecting their expertise and commitment to collective advancement:

Bangladesh spearheads trade, investment and development, including the blue economy, leveraging its strategic location and maritime resources.

Sri Lanka focuses on science, technology and innovation, including health and human resource development, fostering advancements in research and human capital.

Bhutan leads efforts in environment and climate change, including the mountain economy, emphasising sustainable practices in the face of ecological challenges.

India takes charge of security, including energy and disaster management, contributing expertise in disaster preparedness and strategic energy management.

Myanmar oversees agriculture and food security, including fisheries and livestock, supporting food sustainability and rural development.

Nepal drives people-to-people contact, including poverty alleviation, promoting cultural exchange and poverty reduction initiatives.

Thailand leads connectivity efforts, enhancing regional infrastructure and transport networks to facilitate seamless connectivity among member states.

BIMSTEC also emphasises cooperation with international and regional organizations, aligning its goals with global development agendas to maximize impact. With a commitment to mutual assistance, joint projects, and capacity building, BIMSTEC seeks to translate its collaborative efforts into tangible benefits that improve living standards and promote inclusive growth across the Bay of Bengal region. (ANI)

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