11 July 2024

Thailand has convened a summit of countries on the rim of the Bay of Bengal for the end of next month, according to an informed source.

The summit was planned and agreed upon when the foreign ministers of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) met informally in Bangkok in July.

Currently, Thailand serves as the chair of BIMSTEC, which was established in June 1997. The regional organisation aims to deepen cooperation in trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism, fisheries, security, counterterrorism, disaster management and energy.

It is the only regional organisation that links South and Southeast Asia. There are five South Asia countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and Myanmar and Thailand in Southeast Asia.

All the BIMSTEC leaders, including Senior Gen Minh Aung Hlaing of Myanmar, have been invited to attend the summit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first leader to confirm his participation.

During the Bangkok retreat, the members reached a broad agreement on the importance of creating crisis response mechanisms to ensure coordination in different contingencies. Top of the agenda are food, public health, energy and financial security. Trade and economic cooperation were at the core of the discussions as well.

At the upcoming summit, the BIMSTEC leaders will discuss critical issues related to digital payment systems and trade settlements, as well as strengthening cooperation in cyber security and the prevention of transnational crimes. Other important topics include the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection, agriculture technology, cultural cooperation, youth exchange and diplomatic training.

Additionally, an Eminent Persons Group has been set up to draw up a road map for the organisation, to ensure the greatest benefits to member countries and their peoples.