BIMSTEC Summit in Sri Lanka on March 30

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, (BIMSTEC), is likely to hold a summit of the heads of Governments in Sri Lanka on March 30 in a hybrid setting providing scopes for both in-person and virtual participation.

Five members of the seven-member international organisation have already confirmed their participation in the summit, called by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, according to Sri Lankan diplomatic sources. The countries that conveyed their confirmation are Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand. Bangladesh and India, the two other members of the regional group of the countries around the Bay of Bengal, are expected to formally confirm their participation soon as the host, Sri Lanka, the outgoing chair of the group, sought concurrence of all member countries discretely about holding the meeting on March 30, a Sri Lankan diplomat said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to join the summit, to be held in Colombo. It is yet to be decided whether she will travel to Sri Lanka or join the meeting virtually.

Foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the BIMSTEC member countries are scheduled to meet on March 28 and 29 respectively for facilitating decision making at the summit on March 30.

The Heads of the Governments of the BIMSTEC member countries are expected to approve a charter for the organisation in the meeting after 24 years of its journey.

The member countries ‘have completed the negotiation of the BIMSTEC charter and it is expected to be signed’ in the forthcoming fifth summit with participation of the heads of the Governments in Colombo, BIMSTEC Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell said in October.

The Colombo Summit, the fifth meeting of the heads of the Governments, was postponed twice in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

In addition to the BIMSTEC Charter, three other legal instruments are expected to be signed at the Summit. These are BIMSTEC convention on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, a memorandum of association on the establishment of BIMSTEC technology transfer facility in Colombo and a memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation between diplomatic academies and training institutions of the member countries.

The Summit is also expected to reconstitute and rationalise 14 areas of cooperation into seven sectors, where each sector will be led by a member country.

The foreign secretaries met 21 times, foreign ministers 17 times and Heads of Governments four times since the establishment of the BIMSTEC 24 years ago in 1997, while security advisers met thrice since 2017.

Thailand is scheduled to take over the responsibilities of the BIMSTEC Chair in the fifth summit in Sri Lanka. (New Age

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