India committed to cooperation under BIMSTEC framework: Jaishankar

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New Delhi, Apr 1 (PTI) A ministerial meeting of the BIMSTEC on Thursday endorsed a master plan for regional connectivity even as India said it was high time for the grouping to make a 'paradigm-shift' in raising the level cooperation and regional integration.

In his address at the virtual meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India remained committed to further building the momentum of regional cooperation under the framework of BIMSTEC and make it a stronger, vibrant and result-oriented grouping.

Besides India, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

'BIMSTEC has evolved through a long journey. Next year will be the silver jubilee of the establishment of the BIMSTEC. It is high time that we dwell upon how to make a paradigm-shift in raising the level of our cooperation and regional integration,' Jaishankar said.

India has been making concerted efforts to make BIMSTEC a vibrant forum for regional cooperation as initiatives under SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) were not moving forward for a variety of reasons.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs said the meeting welcomed a proposal to hold the fifth BIMSTEC summit in Sri Lanka in next few months in consultation with the member states.

It said the meeting endorsed the BIMSTEC master plan for transport connectivity for adoption at the grouping's next summit.

Three other agreements providing for mutual legal assistance, cooperation among diplomatic academies and on establishment of a BIMSTEC technology transfer facility in Colombo were also endorsed at the meeting.

In his address, Jaishankar also mentioned that the BIMSTEC convention on cooperation in combating international terrorism, transnational organised crime and illicit drug trafficking has come into force last month.

He also noted that the member states have finalised the 'BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity' which is expected to be adopted at the fifth BIMSTEC summit.

'It would be an important step towards fulfilling the aspirations of the people of our region for better connectivity and integration,' Jaishankar said at the ministerial meeting.

'I am glad to learn that Sri Lanka plans to hold the fifth BIMSTEC Summit soon, which shall take important decisions to make the organization more focused and also more result-oriented,' he said.

Laying emphasis on improving connectivity, Jaishankar said there was a need to put in place legal framework for smooth connectivity in the region by finalising the BIMSTEC coastal shipping agreement and the motor vehicles agreement at an early date.

Observing that development and prosperity go hand in hand with peace and security, he said the region is facing both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

'Our NSAs have met thrice since 2017. They have been working closely and have moved forward in several aspects of security cooperation including counter terrorism, intelligence sharing, coastal security, cyber security, etc in a tangible manner,' he said.

BIMSTEC over the years, Jaishankar said, has emerged as a promising sub-regional grouping with growing strategic and economic interests of the member states as well as of the international community in the Bay of Bengal region.

'India remains committed to further building the momentum of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework and make the organization stronger, vibrant, more effective and result-oriented,' he said.

'I am confident that BIMSTEC would scale new heights in the times to come with our collective efforts and spirit of cooperation,' Jaishankar added. PTI MPB ZMN