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BIMSTEC parley begins tomorrow

Daily News, Sri Lanka

BIMSTEC parley begins tomorrow

10 November 2008

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will attend the summit conference of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to be held in New Delhi on November 13. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

BIMSTEC comprising of Bay Bengal states such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand was established in 1997, is a $810 billion economy, sharing about 22% of world population and 3.64 per cent of surface area.

After a gap of three years, India is to host the second BIMSTEC summit during November 11-13, 2008 at New Delhi. The last summit was held in Bangkok in 2004. The summit-level meeting in BIMSTEC was delayed mainly due to political reasons and non-cooperation of some of the member countries.

The one-day 2nd Summit, to be attended by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa , Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders from Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Thailand, is expected to focus on forging closer integration of the member countries that spread across South Asia and South east Asia. The specific areas expected to be covered include trade, counter-terrorism, trans-national crimes, tourism, fisheries and public health.

The leaders are also expected to review the progress on the proposed Free Trade Agreement between BIMSTEC member states. The current trade amongst BIMSTEC countries is around USD 20 billion. C.R. Jayasinghe, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in New Delhi, speaking to Asian Tribune said that the BIMSTEC summit is scheduled to take place on the 13th of this month.

He said that there are three segments of the proceedings, one is the meeting of the officials, others is the ministerial segment followed by the Summit of leaders of the BIMSTEC member states.

The Conference will begin from tomorrow and in the official conference, Additional Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam will participate followed by the Ministerial Conference on the 12th in which Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama will head the Sri Lanka delegation and on 13th there will be the summit where President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be participating. According to the High Commissioner along with the President his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and coordinating Secretary Sajin Vas Gunawardene are expected arrive in New Delhi.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner said that the endeavour of the BIMSTEC is to go in for a free trade regime of the seven states which are Bay of Bengal communities. Also he said the summit will discuss the establishment of a secretariat for the BIMSTEC.

The High Commissioner said that on the sidelines of the summit conference, President Rajapaksa is also scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with India’s Prime Minister.

Also according to the programme, head of states who are attending the summit are expected to call on the President of India.