By Arvind Padmanabhan

Nay Pyi Taw: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said the seven-nation BIMSTEC was shedding narrow definitions of geography and listed trade, energy, physical connectivity and people-to-people exchange as priority areas to build upon.

“In coming together, we are not only stepping out of narrow, traditional definitions of regions such as South Asia or Southeast Asia, but we are also building a bridge across Asia’s most promising and dynamic arc,” the prime minister told the BIMSTEC Summit in this Myanmar capital.

“Today, as connectivity and integration across a fragmented Asia are becoming the new vehicles for advancing peace and prosperity in the region, BIMSTEC is one of the more promising examples of such initiatives,” he added.

Manmohan Singh said even as the region faced many common challenges such as from natural disasters and terrorism, it also shared many opportunities in areas as such as trade, economic cooperation and connectivity, all of which signaled a bright future.

Besides India and Myanmar, the BIMSTEC regional grouping comprises Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, accounting for 21 percent of the global population and $2.5 trillion in GDP.

Listing the Indian contribution to the regional grouping, Manmohan Singh said the proposed centre for predicting weather and climate and providing early warnings will be operational at Noida soon.

“Since 2007, India’s National Tsunami Warning Centre is providing early warnings of Indian Ocean Rim countries on a regular basis,” he said, adding that New Delhi was also partner in space sciences, resource management and economic development.

The prime minister said terrorism and cross-border crimes also deserved the attention of BIMSTEC leadership be it for security of sea lanes or communication channels.

“The nature of the evolving threat of terrorism in the BIMSTEC region has imparted greater urgency for stronger cooperation to counter it,” he said.

“As part of this effort, we must seek early ratification of the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Trans-National Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking,” he said.

The prime minister also sought the early signing of the Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters among the seven countries and start negotiations for a convention on extradition.

Manmohan Singh also lauded the decision for a permanent BIMSTEC secretariat in Dhaka as a key milestone in the evolution of the group and thanked Bangladesh to host it.

He also proposed 2015 to be declared as a year of BIMSTEC tourism, terming it a powerful source of economic development and a bridge between peoples and cultures.

Source: IANS