Nima Wangdi  

Speaking at the fifth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit yesterday, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering called on member states to channel their collective efforts and build back better by prioritising some key sectors on the post-Covid path.

“Trade and investment are at the core of BIMSTEC cooperation but the intra-region trade has seen only negligible improvement since its inception,” Lyonchhen said.

This minimal growth, he said, could also be attributed to bilateral engagement at the national or the private sector level, and not necessarily through the BIMSTEC platform. “Concrete steps and initiatives must be taken beyond the formalities to enhance trade in the region.”

Since hydropower is the only reliable source of revenue, Bhutan is seeking to diversify and attract more investments, creating jobs and employment that match the needs of local as well as global markets, Lyonchhen said.

He said that there is a possibility to take advantage of the BIMSTEC platform that can push for not just affordable but free Internet for everyone in the region. “We could be worried about the loss of upfront revenue but the benefit that trickles down to every individual will be immense.”

Lyonchhen also thanked India and Bangladesh for their unconditional support with the ongoing establishment of the third Internet gateway.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the region has witnessed a true spirit of cooperation as envisioned by the founding fathers in the Bangkok Declaration of 1997.

“We have demonstrated our friendship and solidarity by reaching out to help one another.” He also thanked the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for sharing Covid-19 vaccines.

Lyonchhen also said that 90 percent of the Bhutanese population has been vaccinated including children above five years. “A series of booster shots are also underway.”

Lyonchhen conveyed warm greetings of Their Majesties The King and The Queen and the people of Bhutan. He said Bhutan is blessed with the farsighted leadership of His Majesty The King and that the government and the people have been fortunate to receive His majesty’s guidance, care and compassion throughout the pandemic.

The leaders of member countries also signed the BIMSTEC Charter during the summit yesterday.

The leaders also witnessed the signing ceremony of three other legal instruments during the summit. A declaration of the fifth BIMSTEC Summit was also adopted.

The leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand joined the Summit, hosted by the current BIMSTEC chair, Sri Lanka virtually.

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa said that the signing of the BIMSTEC Charter would be a significant step towards increasing the organisation’s role not just within the region, but also as a driving force from Asia in global affairs.

He also highlighted the importance of trade and investments within the BIMSTEC region given its strategic location at the centre of the Indian Ocean and also highlighted that the resources in the Bay of Bengal should be preserved and managed equally.

All the seven leaders at the summit emphasised the need to accelerate BIMSTEC’s agenda on trade and investment and the need to ensure that the private sector and start-ups of the BIMSTEC countries work closer. Adopting the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity, the leaders reiterated the implementation of projects on maritime, transport cooperation and road connectivity.

The BIMSTEC summit was held from March 28 to 30.


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