The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal,
The Honourable Foreign/External Affairs Ministers of BIMSTEC Member States
Mr. Secretary General of BIMSTEC
Friends from Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Namaste and good evening!
I extend a warm welcome to our distinguished guests in Nepal, the land of Gautam Buddha and Mount Everest, and at this Inaugural Session of the Fifteenth Session of BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting.
I am grateful to honorable Foreign/External Affairs Ministers and Deputy Foreign Ministers of BIMSTEC Member States for accepting our invitation to attend this Meeting at a short notice despite your busy schedules.
I express sincere appreciation to The Right Honourable Prime Minister for kindly agreeing to be our chief guest and delivering the Inaugural Address.
This is the first highest-ranking BIMSTEC meeting we are hosting in Nepal since the assumption of the chairmanship in March 2014.
I am happy to note that this meeting coincides with the 20th anniversary of the founding of BIMSTEC. Hope, this will inspire all of us to make our meeting highly productive through our collective efforts.
BIMSTEC is a unique platform that connects South Asia with South-east Asia and links the two vibrant growth poles. There are strong bonds of cultural affinity between our two sub-regions.
Honorable Ministers and Excellencies,
In recent times, we have been witnessing economic dynamism at both regional and global levels fuelled by globalization, technological innovation and deeper interconnectedness. The formation of BIMSTEC twenty years ago was a thoughtful response to realize the opportunities of globalization and gradual shifting of economic locus towards Asia.
Our region is endowed with rich natural resources, vibrant populations and diverse cultural heritages. Given the huge untapped potentials, there is every reason to believe that BIMSTEC could emerge as a formidable economic force in the world. What is required is a sincere pursuit of regional cooperation with the common understanding that deeper integration results in win-win situation for all constituent member states. Landlocked and least developed member states have special development challenges that warrant serious consideration by all.
Visible progress is required in core economic areas such as connectivity, trade, tourism, energy, and agriculture. Connectivity of all kinds, trade and investment cooperation, energy cooperation, use of information and technology are key enablers for bringing about structural as well as socio-economic transformation in the region.
Our two decades of journey has been a mixed bag of achievements and shortcomings. We note that progress has been achieved in some areas of cooperation, namely trade, energy, transport, tourism and institutional development of the organization. However, progress has been slow and below our expectations. Our progress does not match our potentials. We need to do much more and our business-as-usual approach has to be changed.
The BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit and the subsequent BIMSTEC Leaders Retreat hosted by His Excellency the Prime Minister of India in Goa, 2016, has given a new impetus to the BIMSTEC process. I believe the deliberations at the Summit and the Outcome Document of the Retreat have further reinvigorated our collective efforts and reinforced our commitments in this regard.
20th anniversary is an opportunity for us to elevate the visibility of BIMSTEC regionally and globally, and enrich its substance for a meaningful regional cooperation. Various programs have been organized to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC.
For developing and least developed economies like ours, and even the developed countries alike, trade is an engine for economic growth. An early conclusion of the agreements on trade in goods, trade in services, investment, mutual assistance in customs matters, dispute settlement and trade facilitation is of paramount importance.
Poverty is our common enemy. It continues to stare at us. The ultimate goal of our regional collaboration has been and should be to uplift our people from the clutches of poverty and enable them to lead a dignified life.
This cannot be achieved easily. We must make collective efforts to fully and sincerely implement the Poverty Plan of Action. As the lead country, Nepal remains committed to advance regional cooperation process in this field, learning from our success in the implementation of Millennium Development Goals and also for the preparation of regional framework for Sustainable Development Goals.
Development cannot take place in the absence of connectivity. Transport connectivity and energy cooperation are critical to boost our productive capacity and to promote intra-regional trade. The updating and enhancement of BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study (BTILS) and the formation of the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Working Group (BTCWG) have been a right step forward in this direction. We call for early conclusion of Motor Vehicles Agreement and Costal Shipping Agreement. We must complete BIMSTEC Master Plan for Connectivity at the earliest. Effective and early operationalization of the BIMSTEC Energy Center and conclusion of MoU on BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection will help significantly to expand connectivity.
Tourism must receive priority in our cooperative efforts. The establishment of BIMSTEC Tourism Fund and the work towards establishing BIMSTEC Buddhist Circuit are encouraging signs of our joint collaboration for tapping huge tourism potentials of the region.
It is interesting to note that globalization has made it easier for both tourists and terrorists to travel around. The current world is empowering not only the delivery of growth and prosperity but it has also empowered the delivery of dangers. Our region is not immune from the dangers of terrorism, organized crimes, drugs trafficking, human trafficking and money laundering, among others. Enhanced level of cooperation and coordinated efforts at various levels help us overcome these evils.
Strong regional collaboration and partnership are equally indispensable for addressing manifold disturbances of harmonious human growth such as the problems of climate change, natural disasters and public health. Conservation of mountain eco-systems including biodiversity is essential for sustainable development of our region.
Closer cultural relationships among our people and cordial people-to-people contacts strengthen the foundation for peace, progress and prosperity in the region and discard threats of poverty, illnesses and crimes from our soil.
I have touched upon some core issues. There may be many more other issues calling for our attention. I do not intend to delve into detail now as we will have enough time tomorrow to deliberate under our agenda items.
History has given us a chance to transform the development landscape of BIMSTEC. We must collectively seize this opportunity. I believe that our collective security lies in our collective prosperity. Collective prosperity cannot be achieved without a meaningful regional cooperation. Our thoughts and action on regional cooperation must be informed by this vision.
I wish to underline that with our strong collaboration we can fulfill the aim of regional economic integration; can achieve social progress; and can enjoy shared prosperity within the region.
My country, Nepal, attaches great importance to regional cooperation. Guided by our foreign policy priority, we remain fully committed to the goals and objectives of BIMSTEC.
I look forward to a productive discussion tomorrow. With these words, I conclude my welcome remarks.
I welcome you all once again and extend my best wishes for your pleasant stay in Kathmandu.
(Welcome Remarks by Hon. Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal at the Inaugural Session of the Fifteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting Kathmandu, Nepal, 10 August 2017)