H. E. Mr.M. Shahidul Islam, Secretary General of BIMSTEC
Distinguished Government Representatives from the Capitals of BIMSTEC Member States
Learned Speakers and Panelists,
Members of the Academia, Civil Society and Think Tanks,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
AssalamuAlaikum, Adab and a very good morning to you all!
First of all, kindly allow me to extend my heartiestcongratulations to you allonce again forjoining thisspecial seminar as part of commemoration of 20th Anniversary of BIMSTECthat had started last year. I fondly recollect the privilege of myattendingthe 1stevent on 6 June last year held at this venue. I thank the Secretary General of BIMSTEC for organizing this brainstorming event captioned ‘BIMSTEC at Twenty: Towards a Bay of Bengal Community’. I wouldwarmly welcome the representatives of the BIMSTEC Member States from their respective Capitals, members of the diplomatic corps, officials, speakersand panelists, members of the academia, civil society, media, think tanks and distinguished guests for joining this function. I thank the learned speakers and special guests for their enlightening deliberations, creative ideas and thoughtful analysis atthe opening segment of this event.I thank the Secretary General for his introductory statement giving an overview of the last twenty years’ journey of the BIMSTEC process. I thank him for putting his sincere efforts behind this august gathering today and making it happen.
As we meet here BIMSTEC forum as a tool for economic development through regional integration bears great meaning and significance for Bangladesh. We had been involvedsince the very inception of this movementin 1997 through Bangkok Declaration. The organization took an expanded shape taking into consideration the untapped potentials of economic growth and social progress toimprove the standard of living of the peoples in the vibrant Bay of Bengal regionconnecting sevencountries from South and South East Asia.The government of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attaches high priority to transform the BIMSTEC process more dynamic, effective andto strengthening the institutional mechanism for bringing out more results.Hosting the BIMSTEC Secretariat since 2014 in Dhaka isa testimony of our commitment tothe BIMSTEC process. I am very proud to say the present Secretary General Ambassador M Shahidul Islam is also from Bangladesh whom the esteemed members elected last year.
Bangladesh had been consistently engaged with Member States in enhancing levels of cooperation in all 14 areas of cooperation likeliberalization and facilitation of trade, enhancing investment cooperation, strengthening cooperation in Energy sectors, technology cooperation, increasing transport connectivity in rail-road, air and sea and enhance people-to-people contact, combating terrorism and extremism to achieve collective security, dealing with the adverse effect of climate change, disaster management, a few to mention among others. Bangladesh, along with three other BIMSTEC members including Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar, arein the process of graduation from the LDC group which is a matter of immense pride for us. However, we will also face some immediate trade and economic challenges to sustain the momentum of the development and progress we have made. WE have to find out alternatives to LDC Club. BIMSTEC forum could be one such alternate. We can supplement the economic benefits and gains we used to receive as LDC club members through rapid enhancement of economic cooperation under BIMSTEC process. It is now imperative on the member states that we conclude all pending formalities to harness quick dividends from our cooperation in the BIMSTEC forum.
BIMSTEC forum left behind 20 years. During this journey, there have been some significant achievements in economic advancement, social and technological progress. But much remains to be done to make it a result oriented organization. The organization is yet to take off despite having huge potentials for gains to bolster economic and social progress for the peoples of the region. BIMSTEC countries covered partly by South Asia and partly by South East Asia having enormousresources and potentials is the fastest growing region in the world. Bay of Bengal region has emerged as a common space for security and development. Despite having such huge potentials, much remains unexploited. Intra-regional trade volume is only 7% while it can go up to 21% if efforts are accelerated and roadblocks are removed. Enhanced level of trade and investment cooperation, connectivity and energy cooperation would certainly generate employment opportunity andfacilitate economic and social development for the region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Secretary General and the Secretariat of any regional organization plays a vital role in coordinating, facilitating and promoting cooperation among the member states through implementation of the agenda and the decisions of the organization. I expect the Secretary General to be very creative and innovative, outreaching and more dynamic while keeping his objectivity and neutrality. The Secretariat is only four years old and we are trying our best to strengthen it. The present Secretary General took over for less than half a year. I take notewith thanks and appreciation the sincere efforts he is undertaking to energize the activities of the Secretariat.I personally think such a brainstorming session was a much needed one. Official level meetings always cannot not do justice to proactive thinking that is required in charting out acorrect direction of an organization cruising through a fast changing world today. I am very happy that a good number of eminent personalities, thinkers and experts have gathered here who would spend their valuable time for a day and engage in meaningful deliberations. I am confident something positive and good will come out of the daylong deliberations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would urge upon all speakers, panelists, experts and participants to focus on a much wider range of issues, challenges and opportunities that affect the work of the BIMSTEC forum and come out with fruitful but realistic suggestions and recommendations to the policy makers to transform the BIMSTEC process into a result-oriented and mutually beneficial organization.On this auspicious occasion, I take this opportunity to congratulate this effort and wish all success of the Seminar.
Long live the spirit of BIMSTEC.
I thank you all.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.