BIMSTEC to jointly fight terror, handle financial crisis
Pressing for an early conclusion of free trade area among the BIMSTEC
member countries, leaders of seven South and Southeast Asian nations
Thursday finalized a pact on combating terrorism and agreed to intensify
their cooperation in areas ranging from climate change, energy and food
security to tourism, transport and culture.
At their second summit here, the leaders of India, Bangladesh, Sri
Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand, the countries that comprise
the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic
Cooperation (BIMSTEC), also mooted the idea of a regional food bank to
help needy members states.
"An idea was mooted that countries pool their resources and set up a
food bank for needy countries whenever necessary," Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference at the end of the
The food security has acquired added importance in view of "the
recent extraordinary volatility in fuel and food prices" that hits
"hardest the poorest sections of population in these countries", said a
joint declaration at the end of the summit.
The leaders agreed to set up a regional energy centre and a weather
and climate centre in India and a cultural observatory in Bhutan, the
They also decided to hold a ministerial conference on poverty
alleviation in Nepal in 2009 and to establish a poverty alleviation
centre in Bangladesh.
Underscoring the threat terrorism poses to peace, stability and
economic progress in the region, the leaders finalized a BIMSTEC
convention on combating international terrorism, transnational organized
crime and illicit drug trafficking that will be signed later.
Alluding to the progress made in the talks for a free trade
agreement, the leaders directed the BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee
to "conclude the negotiations on trade in goods as soon as possible, and
to continue its efforts for agreements on services and investments".
The leaders also agreed that improved transportation and
communication linkages and greater connectivity between member states
would lead to increased trade and investment, tourism and
Setting out an ambitious agenda for intra-regional cooperation,
Manmohan Singh underlined the need for greater regional connectivity
that could include the construction of a deep-water port to service the
Besides Manmohan Singh, Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal,
Bangladesh chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, Myanmar Prime Minister Thein
Sein, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley, Sri Lankan President
Mahinda Rajapaksa and Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat attended the
The BIMSTEC leaders also pledged to share experience and increase
cooperation to jointly face the current global financial crisis to
minimize its impact on the region that has a combined GDP of $1.7
trillion and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the world's humanity.