It was Bhutan’s turn to nominate the SG

MB Subba

One the founders of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Tenzin Lekphel, is set to become the next secretary general (SG) of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The government nominated him. 

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the BIMSTEC secretariat would propose a meeting of foreign ministers to endorse the nomination.

He said that all the member countries had agreed to the nomination and that the nomination remains to be formally endorsed by a meeting of foreign ministers. “This time, it is Bhutan’s turn to nominate the SG,” he said.

The role of the secretariat headed by the secretary general is to coordinate and facilitate the implementation of its activities and projects and service the meetings of the organisation.

Meanwhile, a meeting of foreign secretaries of BIMSTEC, which was held virtually a few days ago in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, recommended the appointment of Tenzin Lekphell for the post.

A press release issued by the Dhaka-based BIMSTEC secretariat on September 2 states that the foreign secretaries welcomed Tenzin Lekphel’s nomination for the position.

A meeting of foreign ministers from the member nations is expected to endorse his nomination soon as the tenure of the incumbent SG M Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh expires on September 20. The tenure is for a non-renewable three years.

The BIMSTEC keeps the post of SG open to people from all fields. According to the Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment of the permanent secretariat, the secretary general of the organisation shall be nominated by the member country on the principle of alphabetical rotation.

Tenzin Lekphel said that it was the first opportunity for Bhutan to nominate the SG.

According to the BIMSTEC press release, Sri Lanka, which is the current Chair of BIMSTEC, is ready to host the fifth BIMSTEC Summit in early January 2021.

The foreign secretaries’ meeting finalised some important legal instruments including BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; Memorandum of Association on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility (TTF) in Colombo, BIMSTEC Charter; and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Cooperation between Diplomatic Academies/Training Institutions of BIMSTEC member states.

These legal instruments are envisaged to be signed at the fifth summit.

The meeting agreed to leverage regional cooperation through BIMSTEC process to combat the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The meeting also approved the MoU between the BIMSTEC secretariat and the Asian Development Bank for enlisting greater project support in the region.

BIMSTEC has identified 14 priority areas. Bhutan takes lead in cultural cooperation. The first BIMSTEC ministerial meeting on culture was held in Paro in May 2006.

The organisation comprises seven members – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – housing about 1.5 billion people (about 21 percent of the world population) and with a combined gross domestic product of USD3.5 trillion.

The organisation was formed in June 1997 as BISTEC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand – Economic Cooperation). Bhutan joined the organisation in 2004 and the grouping’s name was changed to BIMSTEC at the first summit meeting held in Bangkok in the same year.