Addressing the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit here, Singh said the region faces many common challenges - from natural disasters to terrorism which have to be collectively addressed to make an important contribution to peace, harmony, security and prosperity in Asia and the world.

"Like our prosperity, our security, too, is indivisible- whether it is the security of sea lanes of communication in our region or the persisting challenges of terrorism and transnational crimes," he said.

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.

"The nature of the evolving threat of terrorism in the BIMSTEC region has imparted greater urgency for stronger cooperation to counter it," he stressed.

As part of this effort, the grouping must seek early ratification of the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking as also expediting signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, he said, adding that negotiations should be commenced on a BIMSTEC Convention on Extradition.

The Prime Minister also spoke of the many opportunities that BIMSTEC countries share in the fields of trade, economic cooperation and connectivity, saying all of this "presages a bright future for us".

He said the in realizing the BIMSTEC vision, connectivity-physical and digital-was the key to it and could be a drive of cooperation and integration in the region.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an expression of India's look East Policy of the 1990s, coinciding with Thailand's Look West policy.

Singh said in coming together, the grouping was not only stepping out of "narrow, traditional" definitions of regions such as South Asia or Southeast Asia, but also building a bridge across Asia's most promising and dynamic arc.
India, he said, was working with BIMSTEC members to improve physical connectivity through various projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, the Asian Highway Network, the ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity and others.
"We will soon launch a direct shipping line to Myanmar that will enhance our region's growing maritime links," he said.
"While developing physical infrastructure, there was also need for simultaneously putting in place supporting architecture of rules and regulations to facilitate cross-country movements," he said.

BIMSTEC pacts on culture, weather warning signed

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday signed three pacts covering areas such as cultural exchanges, permanent secretariat and early weather warning.

The leaders decided to approve the setting up of a permanent secretariat, establish a centre on weather and climate and a commission to promote cultural exchanges among their countries.

"Since 2007, India's National Tsunami Early Warning Centre is providing early warnings to Indian Ocean Rim countries on a regular basis," the Prime Minister said.

"The BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate in Noida near New Delhi will become functional immediately after we sign this Memorandum of Association today," he added.

"The permanent secretariat that we are establishing in Dhaka will be an important milestone in the evolution of this group and I thank Bangladesh for offering to host it," Singh said while adding, "I hope the setting up of the secretariat will also enable us to focus on areas that are particularly critical to realizing the BIMSTEC vision."

India seeks BIMSTEC free trade pact soon
Focussing on trade and economic cooperation, Manmohan Singh also called for an early conclusion of a free trade pact among the seven-member BIMSTEC to realize the full potential of grouping that represents 20 percent of the global population and USD 2.5 trillion in GDP.

"Trade and economic cooperation should figure high on our list of priorities," the PM said.
"We should aim for an early conclusion of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement for trade in goods and also extend it to investment and services," he said while adding, "Most of us here are connected with each other through one or more regional economic arrangements and it should not be difficult for us to conclude one for BIMSTEC."


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