Bay of Bengal nations resolve to face calamities together

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An organization of seven Bay of Bengal nations said its members must urgently use their geographical advantage and other resources to address their post-pandemic vulnerabilities and collectively strengthen their ability to face future calamities.

In a declaration on the final day of a three-day summit Wednesday, the group, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Corporation, said its members resolved to work together to combat poverty, natural disasters, climate change, pandemics and transnational crime.

They also agreed to work toward food and energy security and strengthen their links to increase trade, investment, tourism and technology, and offset economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The developments in Europe in the last few weeks have raised a question mark on the stability of the international order. In this context, it has become important to make BIMSTEC regional cooperation more active,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a virtual speech.

“It has also become imperative to give more priority to our regional security.”

He said India will contribute $3 million to revive the BIMSTEC Center for Weather and Climate to enable cooperation in disaster management.

The leaders also signed a BIMSTEC charter, which the summit’s host, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said “will no doubt be a significant step toward increasing this organization’s role, not just within the region, but also as a driving force from Asia in global affairs.”

Leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand all addressed the summit virtually. Myanmar’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, represented his country remotely.

He also participated remotely in a meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday that was attended in person by the other ministers.

Myanmar’s military leader has not been allowed to participate in meetings of another regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, following the army’s seizure of power in February 2021 and violent suppression of opposition to its rule.

Officials and ministers of the BIMSTEC member countries also signed three agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, a technology transfer facility and cooperation between diplomatic academies.

Thailand took over as BIMSTEC’s chair nation for the next two years.

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