GANGTOK, Sikkim, India, 24 April 2018 (BSS) – Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said today it was time to turn `Waters of Sorrow’ to `Waters of Hope’ on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.
“Amicable sharing and collective harnessing of water resources was the golden key of regional cooperation,’ he said.
The minister was addressing the `Integrating BIMSTEC 2018′ conference as guest of honor at the spectacular city of Gangtok in Sikkim, India.
Minister for Sikkim Tourism, Bhim Prasad Dhungel attended as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the day-long conference on integrating BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) organized by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in association with Ministry of External Affairs of India.
Inu said, “We know our miseries but we are yet to learn about our wealth and the shores of Bay of Bengal are crisscrossed by thousands of rivers that apart from being resources often cause sorrow. And it is time that we turn `Waters of Sorrow’ to `Waters of Hope’.
“Strong regionalism is the survival kit in the era of globalization. And one can change his wife or husband, but cannot change neighbors, so it is better to learn to live with them, peacefully,” he said.
Focusing on the conference theme of `Neighborhood First’ and `Act East’, Inu proposed five points to ponder that included making BIMSTEC market-induced and people oriented from a mere policy-induced regional cooperation and resolving bilateral issues, amicably while deep-freezing and delinking the difficult and touchy issues for the time being for the sake of cooperation.
The proposals also included building peoples’ confidence on BIMSTEC through `Easy traffic system with Multi-modal transport corridor’ and `Liberal visa regime’, ‘Cross-border infrastructure with associated software and terrestrial optical fiber network’ and, ‘adoption of a Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) Mega-project’ to harness water resources, collectively by Bay of Bengal nations which would act as a golden key to open the doors of cooperation.
“We are now in an Asian century,” the information minister said, adding, “The global economic epicenter is swinging towards Asia and a rapid economic transformation is taking place in our region. And it is BIMSTEC, the unique cooperation among South and South-east Asia, which is poised to reap the benefits.”
Inu, also the President of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasod), further opined for reduction of dependence on Middle-East oil, re-vitalizing the dormant markets of the region to attract more FDIs, opening new tourist spots in the region and letting BIMSTEC be the economic link between SAARC and ASEAN, which would augment the regional cooperation of seven countries of South and South-East Asia.
He focused on past 20 years of BIMSTEC, its present scenario and way forward saying, “The past two decades of BIMSTEC have not gone in vain.”
“Gradually affirming our trust on each other, we had three Summits, 15 ministerial meetings and our senior officials met 18 times over 20 years.”
“And, thus BIMSTEC extended its areas of cooperation from initial 6 to now 14, including climate change, which is the latest and the burden of it is largely borne by Bangladesh as sector-leader, along with trade and investment.”
Rajat Nag, chairman of ACT, East Council of ICC, chaired the inaugural session that focused on `BIMSTEC as the natural choice to fulfill key foreign policy priorities of Neighborhood First and Act East’.
Secretary General of BIMSTEC secretariat Ambassador M Shahidul Islam, FBCCI President Matlub Ahamad, Prof. Emeritus Dr. Gamini Keerawella from Sri Lanka and joint secretary of Indian external affairs ministry Piyush Srivastava also spoke.
Director of BIMSTEC secretariat S M Nazmul Hasan, and Muhammad Abdulla-hil Quayyum of information ministry also attended the conference.
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation- BIMSTEC formed in 1997 has now seven member states- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
This intra-regional cooperation platform is home to about 1.5 billion people, which is 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion dollar. Its permanent secretariat was established in Dhaka in 2014.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu is expected home on Thursday.