Foreign Secretary of Nepal, Mr Shanker Das Bairagi, speaking in the Raisina Dialogue 2018, on the panel theme “Towards a Bay of Bengal Community: Development, Growth & Security”

Unedited notes from the Foreign Secretary Mr Bairagi’s presentation on BIMSTEC:
## The world has witnessed the waves of liberalization, privatization and globalization. More recently, the forces of economic nationalism have been quite active. Amidst these uneven developments and contradictions, we, the BIMSTEC members, need to define a vision for where we will be heading as a region and as a community.
## If economic dynamism in Asia is a prelude to become an Asian century, BIMSTEC region possesses immense potentials to grow with the trajectory of Asian growth. Strength of BIMSTEC lies in:
— Strategic geographical & maritime location: the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean are gaining importance with the increase of maritime traffic
— Resource endowments including natural, human and cultural resources. The region has possibility of integrating ‘blue economy’ with ‘green economy’.
— Being a huge market of ever expanding middle class population
— Demographic dividend– the region is home to one fifth of world humanity, a significant chunk of which is the population of youth
— Relatively enabling political environment, — there is no major and longstanding political problem among BIMSTEC members and they increasingly share the values of democratic polity.

Journey so far (Accomplishments of BIMSTEC in the past 20 years):

• BIMSTEC has registered some success primarily in identifying the areas of cooperation, developing some important mechanisms and enhancing mutual trust and confidence among member states to grow and prosper together.
• Number of major instruments have either been concluded or are in the process of concluding. Key areas include legal and security (MLA, terrorism), trade, energy and connectivity (FTA framework agreement, trade facilitation, customs, motor vehicle, coastal shipping, transit, grid interconnection)
• Intraregional connectivity has received high priority for smooth cross-flow of peoples, goods, services, technology and ideas to enhance intraregional trade and tourism, cultural interactions and to develop a sense of solidarity and oneness among the peoples of the region.

Despite all these, we must acknowledge that our pace has not been satisfactory. Scale, scope and speed of cooperation have not matched the potentials.

Recommendations (what next for BIMSTEC):
• First and foremost, BIMSTEC must have a long term vision translated into long term plan and concrete steps on the ground. We need to have clarity what kind of regional cooperation we want and what will the degree, modality and process of such cooperation.
• BIMSTEC needs to prepare a connectivity blueprint. The master plan on transport connectivity, that is in the making, should be concluded at the earliest. Integration of Green Economy with Blue Economy to harness the resources from the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean can be a strong case of regional cooperation.
• Fundamental prerequisite of successful regional cooperation is that all member states should have a sense of gain. Interests of smaller and vulnerable economies must be recognized. Larger economies have important role to drive the process of cooperation.
• BIMSTEC FTA has to be concluded at the earliest to significantly augment trade and economic cooperation in the region. Increased interdependence can only sustain any regional cooperation. The agenda of common investment regime should be pursued.
• Energy carries immense potential for an effective cooperation in the region. It includes hydro-potential rich Nepal and Bhutan as well as oil and gas rich Bangladesh and Myanmar. An early conclusion of the MoU on BIMSTEC Energy Grid Interconnection is necessary.
• Policy coordination among member states should be enhanced.
• BIMSTEC needs to promote regional value chain linking each of the member countries and their industries to a regional level that might be a good model of cooperation.
How Nepal views BIMSTEC
• Regional cooperation is an important aspect of Nepal’s foreign policy. Nepal fully understands the compelling cases for cooperation and indispensability of interdependence among the nations.
• As the current chair of BIMSTEC, Nepal is playing an active and constructive role to further strengthen and rejuvenate it to accomplish its goals.
• Nepal hosted the Fifteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Kathmandu in August 2017. It is preparing to host the BIMSTEC Summit in 2018. Process and preparation will be advanced once the new government is in place following the recently concluded parliamentary elections.
• Nepal firmly stands for the timely and full implementation of the agreements and commitments made so far.