Launching Event of the Permanent Secretariat in Dhaka
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which was launched as a sub-regional grouping on 06 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration, was finally anchored with a Permanent Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The BIMSTEC Secretariat was officially inaugurated in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 13 September 2014 by Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Honourable Foreign Minister, Honourable Finance Minister of Bangladesh, Honourable State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Secretary General of BIMSTEC, Dignitaries of the Government of Bangladesh, Ambassadors/High Commissioners of the resident Diplomatic Missions of the Member States, and other invited guests.
The activities and programs of the BIMSTEC were being coordinated and facilitated by the BIMSTEC Working Group (BWG) based in Bangkok. The decision to locate the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka was adopted in the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in March 2014. Before the inauguration ceremony, the Secretariat became operational with the joining of the First Director from Bangladesh on 21 July 2014. The Secretariat became fully functional with the assumption of charge by His Excellency Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka on 10 August 2014 as the First Secretary General of BIMSTEC.
In her speech at the inauguration ceremony, Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina termed the day to be a historic one for Bangladesh and for BIMSTEC marking the beginning of a new journey towards greater and more intense cooperation for this unique organization. She stated the Secretariat would become a hallmark of proud partnership among the seven Member States across the Bay of Bengal adding that the establishment of the Secretariat is a major leap forward towards regional cooperation and integration. Congratulating the Secretary General, the Honourable Prime Minister expressed the hope that he would be able to provide the leadership in caring out the mandate of the organization and assured her full support in his endeavors and in the effective functioning of the Secretariat.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also unveiled the plaque of the BIMSTEC Secretariat as well as commemorative postal stamp of TK 4, TK 10 opening cover and TK 5 data card released by the Postal Department on the occasion. The Heads of States/Government of the BIMSTEC Member States also sent their written congratulatory messages on the occasion.
In his speech, the Honourable Foreign Minister expressed Bangladesh’s deep commitment to the goals of the BIMSTEC hoping that BIMSTEC agenda would capitalize on the potential of the region. The Honourable Finance Minister underlined the need for early implementation of the Framework Agreement on BIMSTEC Free Trade Area signed in 2004 for wider cooperation in the region. In the welcome speech, Honourable State Minister expressed gratitude to the Member States for choosing Dhaka as the seat of the BIMSTEC Secretariat and urged Member States to work together towards transforming the organization into a dynamic body.
Secretary General Ambassador Nakandala expressed deep appreciation to the dignitaries present at the Inauguration Ceremony from the Government of Bangladesh for their respective undertakings, directives and support extended towards making the Secretariat a reality. The absence of Secretariat had impeded on the progress of the organization for a long time. Now the Secretariat is in existence, he looks forward to work with the Member States in realizing the goals enshrined in the Bangkok Declaration of 1997. He said the success of the organization largely would depend on the political commitments of the Member States.
BIMSTEC Secretariat has been set up in the diplomatic area of Dhaka city at House Number- 06, Road Number- 53 of Gulshan-2.
Constituting its seven Member States from South Asia and Southeast Asia namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the regional association is seen as a land bridge between the South and the South East Asia. BIMSTEC as a region, represents the aspiration of around 1.5 billion people across the Bay of Bengal which constitute around 22% of the global population. With a combined GDP of 2.7 trillion economy, the region has the potential of creating trade worth US$ 43 to 59 billion under the proposed BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement. Importantly, for the last five years, BIMSTEC Member States have been able to sustain an average 6.5 % economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.
The dignitaries who spoke at the Inaugural Ceremony expressed high optimism on the potential gains from cooperation at the Grouping. It was stated that regional integration in the Bay of Bengal was a key strategy to not only deepen intra-regional cooperation but also as a tool to facilitate strengthened inter-regional and global integration of economies of the countries. Closer cooperation within this BIMSTEC framework is imperative in realizing the benefits of globalization and greater market access through the comparative advantages and regional value chains. Members are expected to benefit from efficiency gains and cost reduction and by way of enjoying competitive edge through joint collaboration in the priority areas of cooperation.