Statement by Hon’ble Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, at the Seventeenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting
(Virtual mode, Colombo, 1 April 2021)
Hon’ble Dinesh Gunawardena, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka and the Chair of the BIMSTEC
Hon’ble Ministers for Foreign Affairs of BIMSTEC Member States,
Heads of Delegation,
His Excellency the Secretary General of BIMSTEC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Afternoon and Namaste!
At the outset, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Hon’ble Foreign Minister Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena and the Government of Sri Lanka for the successful stewardship of BIMSTEC. Excellency, your dedication and pro-active leadership has made it possible for us to meet virtually for today’s important Meeting.
Let me congratulate His Excellency Mr. Tenzin Lekphell on his appointment as the third Secretary General of BIMSTEC. I commend him for the comprehensive report and thank his team at the Secretariat for the excellent preparation of the Meeting.
I also thank His Excellency Mr. Shahidul Islam for his service to BIMSTEC as its second Secretary General.
This Ministerial Meeting being held virtually for the first time in the aftermath of COVID-19 will be of high significance for a number of reasons. During the meeting, we will not only review the progress achieved so far after the 4th BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu but also endorse several important decisions in line with the directives of our leaders during the Summit and prepare the ground work for the 5th BIMSTEC Summit.
Representing the one-fifth of humanity BIMSTEC stands as a dynamic bridge between South Asia and South East Asia. Blessed with rich natural resources, mosaic of cultures and age-old civilization, the BIMSTEC region embraces enormous potentials for socio-economic development and prosperity of our peoples.
Over the years, BIMSTEC as a regional organization has achieved several important milestones in key areas. Building on the decisions made at the 4th Summit in Kathmandu, BIMSTEC has made notable progress in institution building, improving administrative and financial management, rationalizing the areas of cooperation, advancing sectoral activities, and enhancing the capacity of the Secretariat.
Humanity continues to face both traditional and emerging challenges to development and prosperity. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed extraordinary challenges not experienced in the past. It will potentially slide down the hard-earned development gains including in the achievement of SDGs. Fighting against poverty and hunger and ensuring of decent jobs and sustainable sources of livelihood for our people stand as daunting as ever.
Further, our region is also hardly hit by the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and food insecurity. Likewise, the region is not immune from the universal challenges of terrorism, organized crimes, illicit drugs, and human trafficking. It is a matter of satisfaction that BIMSTEC mechanisms and efforts are geared towards tackling these common challenges together.
We believe that effective and timely implementation of the BIMSTEC Poverty Plan of Action in line with the Agenda 2030 is highly imperative to eradicate poverty from the region. Only a dynamic and resilient BIMSTEC can catalyze growth, spur innovation and propel development and prosperity taking into account the special needs of LDCs and LLDCs.
We are rightly staying the course that regional growth and prosperity requires deeper cooperation rather than proliferating areas of cooperation and mechanisms. Rationalization and re-organization of sectors and sub-sectors by the BIMSTEC Senior Officials will lead us towards action and results. We must focus on such core areas as connectivity, energy, trade, investment, tourism and agriculture.
Enhancement of capacities in sustainable agriculture, including of cooperatives and smallholder farmers, would contribute to boosting green growth and poverty reduction efforts.
Cooperation and collaboration between and among the Member States has helped fight the pandemic, save peoples’ lives and re-energize our economies. With the pandemic exposing our vulnerabilities, ensuring availability of COVID-19 vaccines at affordable price and smooth supply of essential medical items becomes critically important.
We remain grateful to the Government of India for generously providing the vaccines to the countries in need with a special priority to neighborhood. We are happy to see India’s lead in producing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
There has been remarkable transformation in the ways we do business during the time of the pandemic. Science and technology, in particular the information and communications technology, has been a vehicle of such transformation.
In the journey of 24 years of BIMSTEC, the BIMSTEC Charter is expected to be signed at the 5th Summit which will provide a sound legal foundation to the regional body.
Nepal has completed the internal procedures to sign the BIMSTEC Charter and MoU on Mutual Cooperation between Diplomatic Academies at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit.
Our endorsement of enhanced organogram and decision for signing at the 5th Summit the legal instruments, including BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and Memorandum of Association on Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility will be significant in advancing the BIMSTEC process ahead.
A well-established transport connectivity network is essential to realize regional integration process. In this context, endorsement of BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity will be crucial to facilitate greater connectivity in all modes of transport. We must accord high priority to promote transport networks, sustainable energy and power grid interconnections, and information highways.
In line with the rationalization of areas of cooperation, Nepal is happy to be the lead country for the sector of people-to-people contact with culture, tourism, forums of think tank, media, etc. as sub-sectors.
There are still a number of issues pending negotiations. BIMSTEC Free Trade Area, Motor Vehicle Agreement, Energy Grid Interconnection, Business Visa Facilitation are a few to mention. The visibility of BIMSTEC will lie in the progress it makes and, in its capacity to deliver in such areas. Trade and transit facilitations should be our top priority. It is equally important to encourage and facilitate the private sector by ensuring enabling environment for them to trade and invest in the region.
For a regional organization to advance, stronger political will and commitment on the part of Member States is essential. Given the region’s huge and diverse potentials, we need to chart a course that brings tangible results on the ground and bring positive changes in peoples’ lives.
The Kathmandu Summit envisioned a better legal and institutional framework for the BIMSTEC. I fully believe that the 5th Summit in Colombo will be instrumental in furthering and deepening the regional cooperation for a larger benefit of our region.
I wish the Seventeenth Ministerial Meeting a success!
I thank you.