NEW DELHI: Stressing that the Ukraine war has added to challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Tuesday called upon members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to deepen and broaden cooperation within the group.
Speaking at the BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting in Colombo, Jaishankar underlined the need to develop a network of regional supply and value chains in order to reduce “our vulnerability to external shocks”.
“The challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic have not yet fully abated, but recent developments in Ukraine have added to international disquiet,” the minister said, adding that the maintenance of international peace, security, and stability can “no longer be taken for granted”.
He said that BIMSTEC, which is a grouping of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, need to work together in more areas for cooperation. “We need more working together in many more areas. We need more effective and fast pace cooperation. We need to intensify and build on what we have achieved in last 25 years,” Dr Jaishankar said.
“We must intensify our efforts to boost intra-BIMSTEC trade and economic ties, development of a network of regional supply and value chains will reduce our vulnerability to external shocks and give our economy greater resilience. This requires us to accelerate cooperation that has been under discussion for long. Simultaneously we must also work on a more ambitious Trade Facilitation agenda,” he said.
He said that India attaches “utmost priority” to BIMSTEC.
EAM Dr S Jaishankar also met Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Prof. GL Peiris on the sidelines of the BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting.
During the three-day visit of the EAM in Sri Lanka, the two nations inked several MoUs including maritime cooperation and fisheries. India and Sri Lanka also signed an MoU for implementation of Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) programme under India’s financial assistance.
Before participating in the ministerial meeting, the EAM called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapaksa.
EAM Dr S Jaishankar and Sri Lankan PM Rajapaksa virtually inaugurated Jaffna Cultural Centre which has been constructed with India’s financial grant of $11 million to preserve the cultural significance and extend cultural ties of the northern province of Sri Lanka.