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Second BIMSTEC Summit begins tomorrow

COLOMBO: The Second Summit of the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) will be held tomorrow in New Delhi, preceded by the 11st Session of the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting and the 13th Session of the BIMSTEC Senior Official's Meeting.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will attend the Summit tomorrow with other leaders of the seven-member regional grouping while foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama will lead the Ministerial delegation from Sri Lanka to the 11th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting today.

The Senior Officials' delegation will be led by Additional Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam.

The Second BIMSTEC Summit, which comes after four years since the first Summit was held in Bangkok, Thailand, is scheduled to finalise several deliverables for the BIMSTEC region on Energy, Culture, Weather and Climate and especially, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime.

The Senior Officials' Meeting, which was be held yesterday was scheduled to finalise and recommend to Ministerial and the Summit Meetings the BIMSTEC Convention on Combating International Terrorism,

Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking to be signed during the Summit. The Convention, once effective, will enhance the cooperation in combating terrorism in the BIMSTEC region. The Senior Officials' Meeting will also discuss the Memoranda of Association on the establishment of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre, BIMSTEC Weather and Climate Centre and the BIMSTEC Cultural Observatory.

The Senior Officials' Meeting will also discuss the draft Summit declaration and finalize it for the consideration at the Ministerial Meeting.

BIMSTEC was formed in Bangkok on June 6, 1997 as a new sub-regional grouping named BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation). Myanmar attended the inaugural June Meeting as an observer and joined the organisation as a full member at a Special Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok on December 22, 1997, upon which the name of the grouping was changed to BIMST-EC.

Nepal was granted observer status by the second Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka in December 1998. Subsequently, full membership has been granted to Nepal and Bhutan in 2003. At the first Summit on July 31, 2004, leaders of the group agreed that the name of the grouping should be known as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

BIMSTEC is a regional grouping that forms a viable economic sub region with close economic and social linkages amongst the member countries. It is currently engaged in promoting trade through the early establishment of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area, increasing cooperation in identified areas such as agricultural products, industrial products and trade facilitation.

Thirteen sectors of cooperation have been identified namely, Trade and Investment, Transport and Communication, Technology, Energy, Tourism, Fisheries, Agriculture, Public Health, Poverty Alleviation, Protection of Biodiversty/ Environment and Natural Disaster Management, Culture, Counter Terrorisms and Transnational Crime and People to People contact.

As a founding member of the grouping, Sri Lanka has played a key role in the history of BIMSTEC, Sri Lanka is the Lead Country of the Technology Sector and Permanent Chair of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) which was set up with a view to finalizing the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement under the Trade and Investment Sector.

BIMSTEC members have now agreed to set up an institutional structure to promote cooperation more actively in the region. Sri Lanka has also offered to host the BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat in Colombo.



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