Sri Lanka agreed to a plan for a Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) facility for technology transfer within the country while also deciding to appoint a Director to the BIMSTEC Secretariat in June this year, during the finalisation of areas of cooperation among BIMSTEC member states, at the 20th Session of the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SoM), chaired by Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha on 3 March.
The SOM was preceded by the third Permanent Working Committee Meeting (BPWC) chaired by Economic Affairs Additional Secretary P.M. Amza on 1 and 2 March at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Sri Lanka is mandated to lead the sector in Science, Technology and Innovation, under which cooperation in technology, health and human resource development is also included. Bangladesh was mandated to lead Trade, Investment and Development, Bhutan to lead Environment and Climate Change, Myanmar to lead Agriculture and Food Security, India to lead Security (Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Disaster Management and Energy), Nepal to lead People to People Contact (culture, tourism, forums of think tanks, media, etc.) and Thailand to lead Connectivity.
The BIMSTEC Charter, which is the institutional mechanism which effectively steers the process of regional cooperation under BIMSTEC, was also finalised and is expected to be adopted at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit.
Foreign Secretary Aryasinha, chairing the 20th Session of the SoM, said that since Sri Lanka assumed the chair, it had sought to reinvigorate the 20-year-old organisation. In this context, Sri Lanka had focused on the need for institutional building through the finalisation of the BIMSTEC Charter and the allocation of defined areas of cooperation among member states as this would add focus on the future activities of BIMSTEC. He added that Sri Lanka, which is scheduled to handover the chairmanship to Thailand later this year, was keen to endeavour to also finalise tangible avenues of cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, technology, tourism and connectivity, ahead of the summit.
BIMSTEC Secretary General Ambassador Shahidul Islam commended the signing of the MoU on the establishment of BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection in April 2019, in addition to the finalisation of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and Memorandum of Association on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility. He further emphasised the importance of sectoral meetings for more comprehensive cooperation and called for the support of all member states on this front, as well as in negotiation on the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area.
Sri Lanka assumed its duties as the Chairperson of BIMSTEC in August 2018, and has since facilitated the productive furtherance of the organisation through three Permanent Working Committee Meetings and a Senior Officials Meeting.
In addition to the finalisation of the BIMSTEC Charter, the rationalisation of sectors and Memorandum of Understanding on Mutual Cooperation between the Diplomatic Academies and Training Institutions of BIMSTEC member states, the meetings also deliberated on sectoral and institutional administrative matters.
Sri Lanka is preparing for the 5th BIMSTEC Summit which will be preceded by the 17th Ministerial Meeting and 21st Senior Officials Meeting later this year. The Sri Lanka delegation comprised Economic Affairs (Multilateral) Acting Director General Anzul Jhan, Deputy Legal Adviser Thilani Silva, Economic Affairs Director Shashika Somaratna, Legal Officer Shakunthala Rajamanthree and Ministry of Foreign Relations Executive Assistant Kalani Dharmasena.