Benaulim: Bimstec leaders on Sunday called for sustainable development, economic progress, poverty eradication and comprehensive stamping out of terrorism and closer relation with Brics even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the region faces many challenges but also has many economic opportunities.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Brics-Bimstec Outreach Summit, he said: "Unequal development, food and energy insecurity, poverty eradication, the impact of climate change, and growing threats posed by terrorism and transnational crime define our governance priorities.
"But, alongside these challenges, there exists a large basket of economic opportunities. With 1.5 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, the countries of Bimstec have shared aspirations for growth, development, commerce, and technology."
Modi said that the convergence of Brics and Bimstec would provide a perfect opportunity to frame economic and development partnership, shape ties in the fields of energy, agriculture, technology, fisheries, and culture, structure trade, investment and commercial partnerships and resources to fight terrorism and transnational crime.
He also said, that in particular, areas of commerce, connectivity, culture, security and disaster management appear promising as far as identifying collaborative possibilities is concerned, adding that India, being a member of both blocs, would be "happy to take a lead in this direction".
Following the Uri attack in September, India, as host of this year's Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit, chose to invite countries belonging to the Bimstec grouping over those of Saarc.
Countries belonging to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) are India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
As New Delhi has launched a diplomatic blitz to isolate Islamabad in the international community, the invitation to Bimstec countries instead of the Saarc countries is being seen as another step in this direction.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives are the members of the South Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) that are also not members of Bimstec.
Speaking at the summit, Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi said that the Bimstec region was confronted with numerous security threats, including rising terrorism, climate change, natural and manmade disasters.
Suu Kyi also called for collective stepping up of pressure on human trafficking, which she said was "modern day slavery and "one of the most pervasive human rights violations".
"We need to step up to intensity in the global efforts to combat global trafficking in a collective and a concerted manner," she said.
Like her, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who in their speeches collectively expressed solidarity with India, in view of the series of terrorist strikes, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also condemned the terror strike and said that her country has "zero tolerance to terrorism and violent extremism".
Hasina also said that the potential and strategic advantage of both the Brics and Bimstec regions was enormous and both needed to mutually take advantage of each other's potential.
"Brics has to engage with Bimstec. Bimstec needs to develop quality infrastructure and attract investment," she said, adding that the new banks floated by the Brics bloc could help channelise investment in the low income countries in Bimstec.
Hasina also said that a sizable part of the population in the bloc were grappling with challenges posed by poverty, sanitation, climate change and appealed to Brics nations to partner with them for collective benefit.
Small countries, she said, cannot be left behind, when one speaks of collective development.
Prachanda underlined poverty as one of the major issues confronting the Bimstec region and said sectors like agriculture, energy, clean development, connectivity, etc.
"Importance of physical connectivity for landlocked countries is vital and cooperation in field of energy can be game changer in socio-economic development," he said.