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India's External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj acknowledged and discussed several initiatives and activities undertaken as part of BIMSTEC (representational image) Wikimedia
  • India’s External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj attended a two-day 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting
  • BIMSTEC is a regional organization with seven states as its member
  • The collective organization aims to harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation

Nepal, August 11, 2017: On a two-day visit to Nepal for the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that the first BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise scheduled for October this year will be hosted in India.

Keeping in view that the region is susceptible to a variety of disasters due to its geo-climatic conditions; a disaster management exercise can prove to be extremely helpful.The first BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise will be held in India in October 2017, announced Swaraj, further adding “This will help us develop quicker, coordinated and comprehensive responses to disasters and provide timely relief and rehabilitation,” mentioned ANI report.

The first BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise will be held in India in October 2017, announced Swaraj. She further adds, “this will help us develop quicker, coordinated and comprehensive responses to disasters and provide timely relief and rehabilitation,” mentioned ANI report.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization with seven states as its member. The collective organization aims to harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation. Its seven members are-

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar
  • Thailand

Members states of BIMSTEC. Wikimedia

BIMSTEC objectives are to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development, accelerate economic growth and social progress, promote active collaboration and cooperation, and provide assistance in the form training and research facilities in education, professional and technical spheres.

Swaraj believes BIMSTEC is a natural choice for India to fulfill foreign policy priority of ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’.

Currently, BIMSTEC is observing its 20th anniversary and Swaraj believes it is one of the fastest growing regions of the world. “BIMSTEC enjoys the unique strengths of connecting South and South-East Asia”. Viewing it as the natural platform to build our common future, she added “BIMSTEC represents our common desire for peace and development”, mentioned ANI report.

At the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit held in Goa last year, all attending leaders had pledged to make BIMSTEC stronger and result oriented thus, increasing its effectiveness to achieve greater connectivity, trade, people-to-people contacts, and sustainable use of resources.

Talking about the first meeting of BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs held in New Delhi this year, Swaraj explained that an all-inclusive approach has been adopted to tackle traditional and non-traditional security challenges that plague the region. Strategies are also in place to “counter scourge of terrorism, violent extremism, and transnational crimes, as also to strengthen our maritime and cyber security cooperation,” she said at the meeting.

The External Affairs minister talked about three major initiatives-

  1. Intra-Region Tourism

India’s external affairs minister also took the occasion to announce that intra-region tourism in New Delhi has witnessed a boost with the launch of BIMSTEC first-of-its kind Network of Tour Operators which has brought the industry and stakeholders across the region together. She believes the right promotion of intra-BIMSTEC tourist circuits and specific tourism products like the Buddhist circuit would allow tourists to be a part of a shared civilization’s culture of the BIMSTEC countries.

Swaraj also recognized at the meeting that softer infrastructural facilities like a Framework Agreement on Transit, Trans-shipment and movement of Vehicular traffic, and the Agreement on Coastal Shipping need to be in place at the earliest to enable smoother cross-border flow of people and trade activity.

  1. India’s Energy Resources

Commenting upon India’s abundant energy resources and caking energy a major driving force of this economic development, Swaraj also acknowledged the rapid cross-border exchange between India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. “The BIMSTEC MoU on grid interconnection which has been finalized would further facilitate regional energy trade”, she said.

The minister also took the opportunity to appreciate the magnanimous projects in place to harness renewable energy in India, adding that BIMSTEC countries should build a strong partnership in this regard “to tackle climate change” and “for a greener world tomorrow”, as reported by ANI.

  1. BIMSTEC Tele-medicine Network

It has been recently launched by one of India’s premier medical institutes JIPMER which was also talked about at the meeting in Kathmandu.

According to the ANI report, Swaraj shared that the network brings together ten best hospitals and medical institutes in a specific region to provide the best of tele-medicine services.

To discuss and reinforce the role of traditional medicine for holistic healthcare, the BIMSTEC Task Force on Traditional Meeting is set to meet in India in October 2017.

ALSO READ: Sushma Swaraj Speaks Out On India-Pak Relations, Asks Pakistan to Stop Promoting Terror

To mark the 20th Anniversary of BIMSTEC, India has plans to undertake a wide range of activities and initiatives that will involve several different institutions, associations and think tanks as the BIMSTEC stakeholders. Some of the initiatives include,

  • Multi-sectoral conferences
  • A trade and tourism expo
  • A start-up summit to bring startups from different regions together and supplement innovation
  • A business conclave to discuss ready-to-invest projects
  • Festivals on Buddhist heritage, among other things

Sushma Swaraj further added, “these initiatives would not only promote trade, investments, innovations, and people-to-people contacts but would also enhance the visibility of ‘brand BIMSTEC.'”

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