Regional cooperation in the Bay of Bengal region will be successful only if member-states are politically committed to make it happen, BIMSTEC Secretary General Ambassdor Sumith Nakandala has said.
Speaking at a seminar titled ‘BIMSTEC at 20: Agenda for 2017 and beyond’ in Kolkata, Nakandala said that trade and investment was the key area that the seven members of BIMSTEC should now focus on.
"Our member-states have provided better market access to other SAFTA or ASEAN countries than to fellow BIMSTEC nations," Nakandala said.
"So there is clearly a problem but that can be surely addressed. But that has to be addressed at the top political level," he said.
Ambassdor Nakandala said that BIMSTEC has made 'some definite progress' in the area of tackling terrorism and trans-national crime, but trade and investment issues have to be addressed now.
"Economic cooperation is the key to success of any regional grouping," he said.
The BIMSTEC secretary general said the regional grouping will be 20 years old soon.
"That is precisely why we need an agenda for the future," Nakandala said.
He focussed on soft areas like culture to take forward the BIMSTEC process.
"This Bay of Bengal region was well connected in the past and culture and trade was the basis for that. That can happen again with some effort," said Ambassdor Nakandala.
Soumen Bagchi, head of the BIMSTEC Division at India's external affairs ministry, said, “Perseverance was the key to the success of a regional grouping like BIMSTEC".
He stressed the role of Indian states to make such groupings a success.
“They can provide the drive for regional cooperation in a very positive way," Bagchi said.