Singh, who is travelling to Myanmar after a gap of nearly two years to attend the two-day summit, is accompanied by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

"Security challenges both natural and man-made, require our collective vision and determination to be overcome," Singh said in a statement in New Delhi before his departure in what could be his last foreign trip as the Prime Minister.

BIMSTEC is an expression of India's Look East Policy of the 1990s, coinciding with Thailand's Look West Policy.

The seven members - India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal - bring together over 20 percent of the world population, which is about 1.5 billion, and a GDP of over USD 2.5 trillion.

Singh said the BIMSTEC lay at the crossroads between SAARC and ASEAN, drawing its energy from the natural convergence of the countries around the Bay of Bengal.

"In the security sphere, we have steadily put in place enabling legal instruments for regional approaches to international terrorism, transnational crime, drug trafficking and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, the need for which is more salient in today's integrated world than ever before," he said.

"Connectivity and sub-regional cooperation in trade and investment, energy, climate, tourism, agriculture and other areas provide the spark for the growth engine in our region," he said.

Singh stressed that peace, stability and development in BIMSTEC countries was 'indispensable' for the forward march of Asia as a whole. BIMSTEC has evolved and matured further as a group since the last summit in New Delhi in 2008, he said.

Singh stressed that India's bilateral relations with BIMSTEC countries are among its most important in the world.

Several BIMSTEC centers are being launched throughout the region, including three in India, to foster greater technical exchanges between member countries, he said.

A Framework Agreement for BIMSTEC Free Trade Area was signed in Phuket, Thailand in 2004, which commits the parties to negotiate FTAs in goods, services and investments.

Singh will be joined by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh who are already here.

During the visit, Singh will have bilateral meetings with Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other leaders.


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