KATHMANDU: The fourth BIMSTEC summit concluded in Kathmandu on Friday with leaders of the regional grouping pledging to reinvigorate the process of economic and strategic integration. Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli handed over the chairmanship of the seven-member grouping to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena after releasing the draft of the Kathmandu declaration, which was unanimously adopted by the member states. According to Oli, the declaration eloquently captured the collective wisdom, thought and vision of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region.
Launched in 1997, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Together, these nations are home to around 1.5 billion people, or 22 per cent of the global population, with a combined GDP of $ 2.7 trillion. However, conflicting priorities and divergent interests among the member states have blocked the grouping from achieving its aim of regional economic, political and cultural integration.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Oli to review bilateral relations and witnessed the signing of an MoU on a preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey on a broad gauge line between Raxaul and Kathmandu, after which the two leaders jointly inaugurated the 400-bed Nepal-Bharat Maitri Pashupati Dharmashala at Kathmandu. Modi also met the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha, the President of Myanmar, Win Myint, and Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk, chief advisor of the Bhutan government.