Kathmandu, Aug 29: A day ahead of the start of 4th BIMSTEC Summit, India's Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh on Wednesday said that the sub-regional group of seven nations was a priority for India as it fulfilled the country's "Neighbourhood First" and "Act East" foreign policy goals. Speaking at the 16th ministerial meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) chaired by Nepal's Foreign Affairs Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, the Minister said that with the completion of 21 years, BIMSTEC was at a critical juncture. He reiterated India's sincere and abiding commitment to work with all BIMSTEC member- states for a safe, strong and prosperous Bay of Bengal region.
Earlier, a Foreign Secretary-level meeting discussed a wide range of issues like regional connectivity, customs cooperation, counterterrorism, regional security, agriculture cooperation, poverty alleviation and traditional medicine. It also discussed establishment of a permanent Secretariat of BIMSTEC in Dhaka, Bangladesh. During the meeting, the Foreign Secretaries of member-states agreed on setting up of a dedicated development fund for executing projects and conducting research in the region. Senior Officials Meeting Begins in Nepal.
They decided to set up a technical team to finalise the modalities of the BIMSTEC Development Fund and decide its size and objectives, said Nepal's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Bharat Raj Poudyal. They also agreed on the drafting of a dedicated charter for the body by studying templates of charters of other regional bodies.
Nepal is the current Chair of the body of seven countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal which was formed in June 1997 and will be hosting the summit on August 30 and 31. They also recommended trimming the numbers of areas of cooperation undertaken by the regional body and identifying focused agendas of cooperation.