BIMSTEC important for the march of Asia: Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 3: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who left Monday morning on a two-day visit to Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, to take part in the third summit of the BIMSTEC, said peace, stability and development of countries of this sub-regional grouping, with over 20 percent of the world’s population and over $2.5 trillion worth of GDP, was indispensable for the march of Asia.

The last summit of the BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation group comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan was held in New Delhi in 2008.

“BIMSTEC lies at the crossroads between SAARC and ASEAN, drawing its energy from the natural convergence of the countries around the Bay of Bengal. Connectivity and sub-regional cooperation in trade and investment, energy, climate, tourism, agriculture and other areas provide the spark for the growth engine in our region,” the prime minister said in a departure statement.

“Security challenges, both natural and man-made, require our collective vision and determination to be overcome. Peace, stability and development in BIMSTEC countries, with over 20 percent of the world’s population and over $2.5 trillion worth of GDP, is indispensable for the forward march of Asia as a whole.

“BIMSTEC has evolved and matured further as a group since the last Summit in New Delhi in 2008. With the impending establishment of a permanent secretariat in Dhaka and appointment of a secretary general, it is poised to play a more active role in regional integration and cooperation,” the prime minister added.

Several BIMSTEC Centres are being launched throughout the region, including three in India, to foster greater technical exchanges between member countries. In the security sphere, we have steadily put in place enabling legal instruments for regional approaches to international terrorism, transnational crime, drug trafficking and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, the need for which is more salient in today’s integrated world than ever before, he said.

“We set great store by BIMSTEC cooperation in the years ahead, for which this summit should play a critical role,” Manmohan Singh emphasised.

He said he also hoped to have meetings with leaders from other member states, all close and friendly neighbours of India, on bilateral relations.

This is expected to be the last foreign visit by Manmohan Singh as India’s prime minister as national elections are expected to be announced this week. Manmohan Singh, 82, has said he is not in running for the nation’s top job anymore after ten years in power.

IANS