By Sunaina Malhotra
With SAARC in a state of terminal decline, India’s Prime Minister Narendra has called for buttressing the seven-nation BIMSTEC and voiced hope that the grouping will continue to scale new heights amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a message on the occasion of 24th BIMSTEC Day, PM Modi underscored the need for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprising Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan to continue to work together in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“We mark the BIMSTEC Day amidst a difficult phase of the COVID pandemic. It is an unprecedented challenge and a testing time for all of us. We need to continue to work together in the fight against the pandemic and in collectively overcoming its consequences,” Mr. Modi said.
“As a manifestation of our collective will, BIMSTEC has emerged as a promising regional grouping to fulfil the common aspirations of its people and serve the shared interests of the Member States,” the Indian leader said.
“I am happy to note that regional cooperation under BIMSTEC framework has intensified substantially in the recent years. Progress has been made on several fronts including the finalization of the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity and the text of the BIMSTEC Charter,” Mr. Modi said.
Prime Minister Modi’s message dated May 31 was tweeted by India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on June 6.
The prime minister also complimented Sri Lanka, the current Chair of BIMSTEC, for providing “able leadership” to the seven-nation grouping during this time. “I am confident that BIMSTEC will continue to grow and scale new heights of cooperation in our common pursuit of building a secure, peaceful and prosperous Bay of Bengal region,” Mr. Modi said.
In a tweet, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also talked about the “enormous potential” of the BIMSTEC. “On #BIMSTEC Day, underline the enormous potential of Bay of Bengal cooperation. Realising that helps bridge South & South East Asia. Will also contribute to our Act East and Indo-Pacific policies,” he said.
“In days to come, India is set to bolster BIMSTEC’s profile and rope in other members to fructify full potential for regional economic cooperation and integration. As of now SAARC has slipped into a comatose state, which makes it imperative to strengthen this unique regional grouping that straddles South Asia and Southeast Asia,” said Manish Chand, Founder, India Writes Network and Centre for Global India Insights (CGII), a think tank focused on international relations.
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