‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East,’ which are the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy, are relevant to BIMSTEC, said the Foreign Secretary

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday said that the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a powerful engine of economic growth with 21.7% of the world population and a combined GDP of US$ 3.8 trillion.

Addressing the International Symposium on ‘BIMSTEC: A Vehicle for Growth and Development’, Shringla held that BIMSTEC has an added significance for the development of India’s North Eastern Region.

“With 21.7% of the world population and a combined GDP of US$ 3.8 trillion, BIMSTEC is a powerful engine of economic growth. During the last decade, the region has registered a compound annual growth rate (GDP growth) of 6.1%. We should collectively strive to surpass this growth rate in the current decade,” he said.

‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East ', both of which are relevant for BIMSTEC are the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy, the Indian Foreign Secretary said, adding that BIMSTEC is unarguably a crucial link between South and South-East Asia.

“As our Prime Minister has noted, BIMSTEC has emerged as a promising regional grouping to fulfil the common aspiration of its people and serve the shared interests of its Member States,” he noted.

Recalling that for a long time, BIMSTEC process was marked by a high degree of informality, without an institutional structure, Shringla said, it received a major thrust at the BIMSTEC Outreach Summit and Leader’s Retreat in India in October 2016 in which the Leaders agreed to work collectively to make BIMSTEC stronger, more effective and result oriented.

He said that BIMSTEC Member States adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and continued their work virtually under the guidance of the Secretary General.

India has played a proactive role in building capacities of BIMSTEC Member States across various sectors of regional cooperation, Shringla said.

“At the last Summit in 2018 in Kathmandu, the Prime Minister of India announced several such initiatives to strengthen BIMSTEC cooperation and capacity-building in different areas,” he argued.

Reckoning that the next year is going to be the silver jubilee year of the establishment of the BIMSTEC, Shringla said, the occasion gives the group an opportunity to reinforce our efforts in raising the level of our cooperation and economic integration.

He emphasized that India remains strongly committed to further building the momentum towards deepening of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework and assiduously working towards making the organization stronger, more vibrant, more effective and result-oriented.