Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s last port of call – BIMSTEC summit – was also his first.
In Myanmar, for the third meet of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, Singh spoke about the importance of linkages to bring the Bay of Bengal grouping countries – India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan – all together.
Singh also said India will soon open a shipping lane with Myanmar and called for a legal framework among the grouping to address the threat of terrorism. “Like our prosperity, our security, too, is indivisible,” the prime minister added.
At the same summit in 2004 at Bangkok, he had emphasised “interconnectivity — physical, economic or technological” to “build bridges of understanding”.
“Connectivity — physical and digital — can be a driver of cooperation and integration in the region,” Singh iterated at the Myanmar capital on Tuesday.
Singh, who represents Assam in Rajya Sabha, has consistently spoken of the economic dividends the north-eastern states will earn through various connectivity initiatives with the countries in the region.
Singh said an early conclusion of a free trade pact will help member nations – which together account for 20% of the global population and $2.5 trillion in GDP – realise the full potential of cooperation.
The group has set a year-end deadline for the pact that has been held up over issues like tariff lines and quantum of concessions.
India signed three agreements with group members on culture exchanges, weather warning and establishment of permanent secretariat on the second day of the summit.