Sri Lanka is planning to host the BIMSTEC heads of government summit in mid-August, with dates still to be finalised.
This will be the fifth summit of the grouping after the 2018 session, which took place in Kathmandu and was also attended by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has seven members — India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Formed in 1997, the grouping is more than 20 years old.
While the authorities are hoping to conduct the summit offline, the final decision will be taken considering the coronavirus pandemic. Although Sri Lanka, as the Chair of the grouping this year, is eyeing a physical summit.
On the agenda will be approval of the BIMSTEC Charter, the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity, and the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. Grouping is also working on the finalisation of the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and the Motor Vehicles Agreement.
India is very keen on the grouping, with SAARC unable to function well due to Pakistan’s politicisation of many of New Delhi’s proposals.
At the foreign minister virtual meeting, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said: “BIMSTEC, over the years, has emerged as a promising sub-regional grouping with growing strategic and economic interests of the Member States, as well as of the international community in the Bay of Bengal region.”
In 2019, India had invited BIMSTEC heads of government and states for PM Modi’s oath-taking ceremony for his second term.
After Sri Lanka, Thailand will be the host of the grouping.