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Kathmandu declaration will aim to sharpen focus

The Kathmandu declaration will narrow down the focus to connectivity, trade, counter-terrorism, livelihood issues and disaster management, the officials said.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2018 00:34 IST
Jayanth Jacob and Anil Giri
Jayanth Jacob and Anil Giri
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Kathmandu declaration,Bimstec
Since it was founded, the grouping has had just three summits, in 2004, 2008 and 2014, and the member states are looking at their heads of state or government meeting more frequently.(AP)

The Kathmandu declaration by Bimstec leaders on Friday is aimed at bringing in a greater sense of purpose and direction for the two-decade-old grouping that is still struggling to come of age, officials familiar with the developments said.

The declaration is aimed at narrowing down the immediate focus areas of the grouping from the 14 subjects it has been dealing with since it was established in 1997. While these 14 issues will remain part of the Bimstec process, the declaration will narrow down the focus to connectivity, trade, counter-terrorism, livelihood issues and disaster management, the officials said.

The declaration by the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation will also focus on improving the structure and implementation mechanism, they said. This will include strengthening the Bimstec secretariat and putting in place a working group mechanism to ensure the commitments made by leaders of member states are followed up. The grouping is also finalising a Bimstec charter.

Since it was founded, the grouping has had just three summits, in 2004, 2008 and 2014, and the member states are looking at their heads of state or government meeting more frequently.

The announcement of a master plan for connectivity will be a highlight of the declaration. The Bimstec Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study by the Asian Development Bank in 2010 had listed 167 projects, of which 66 were categorised as priority projects in 2014. Most of these projects are aimed at improving road and sea connectivity. A coastal shipping agreement, which is in the works, is expected to boost the grouping’s connectivity plans.

The declaration will also push for counter-terror cooperation and call for putting in place legal frameworks to ensure greater collaboration among law enforcing agencies. For example, the Bimstec Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism and Bimstec Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters are yet to be ratified. “Bimstec is a work in progress,” said strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany. In his opinion, it is an ideal platform for India to achieve its strategic objectives. “Bimstec is a better alternative than the stunted Saarc or China-proposed BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) corridor because it is more inclusive and seeks to reintegrate this sub-region along its natural axis,” he said.

Bimstec consists of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 00:32 IST