Sri Lanka Calls Postponement Of December BIMSTEC Summit

Sri Lanka Calls Postponement Of December BIMSTEC Summit

Nov. 15, 2021, 11:10 p.m.

Sri Lanka has called for an in-person BIMSTEC summit, however, the date is yet to be decided.

It will be the fifth summit of the grouping whenever it takes place. BIMSTEC or Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation has seven members - India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The grouping is more than twenty years old and was formed in 1997. The last summit took place in Kathmandu in 2018 with PM Modi and other member leaders attending the meet.

Sri Lanka is the chair of the grouping and had earlier proposed holding a virtual summit on December 9 which has now been postponed. It had earlier proposed a summit in August.

It is the second time Colombo had to post the summit, the reason for which has not been given. In April, the BIMSTEC foreign ministers meet had taken place virtually during which the agenda for the leaders' summit was taken up. On the agenda at the summit will be the approval of the BIMSTEC charter, BIMSTEC master plan for transport connectivity and BIMSTEC convention on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

The grouping is also working on the finalisation of the BIMSTEC coastal shipping agreement and the motor vehicles agreement.

India has been keen on the grouping with SAARC unable to function well due to Pakistan's politicisation of many proposals of New Delhi. In 2019, India had invited BIMSTEC heads of government and states for PM Modi's oath-taking ceremony for the second term. After Sri Lanka, Thailand will be the host of the grouping.

Meanwhile, BIMSTEC also faces a dilemma over Myanmar's presence. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) during October's annual summit had not invited Gen Min Aung Hlaing who seized power in Myanmar earlier this year. The country's military leadership has seen global backlash over continued violence in the country.

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