BIMSTEC Secretary General unveils vision for Bhutan’s integration and growth

YANGCHEN LHAMO
Thimphu

Indra Mani Pandey, the newly appointed Secretary General of BIMSTEC, was in the country on a four-day introductory visit. The visit aimed at strengthening ties and exploring areas of cooperation among BIMSTEC member states.

The Secretary-General emphasized that Bhutan can gain from enhanced connectivity and regional cooperation in sectors such as energy, where the interconnecting electricity grids is a key focus. This initiative supports the transition to green energy, aligning with the environmental goals of the member states.

One of the primary areas of focus for BIMSTEC is environmental sustainability. Bhutan has been proactive in this sector of environmental conservation and sustainability efforts. BIMSTEC plays an important role in climate change, addressing both mitigation and adaptation strategies, including disaster management.

Indra Mani Pandey highlighted the importance of environmental sustainability, mentioning that climate change and its impact are critical areas of cooperation within the region. ‘‘We are all painfully aware of the impact of climate change and the challenges that we face, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change,’’ he said.

BIMSTEC’s focus on environmental sustainability as reflected in their comprehensive action plans, which include initiatives from Bhutan and other member states aims at fostering regional cooperation in biodiversity, climate change impact, and waste management.

Pandey also highlighted the potential for cultural exchange and tourism between Bhutan and other BIMSTEC members. Nepal, leading in this area, promotes both cultural and tourism cooperation. The region’s rich cultural heritage and historical monuments present vast opportunities for intra-regional tourism.

BIMSTEC has facilitated regular meetings among tour operators and is developing regional tourism circuits. Cultural, music, and film festivals under the BIMSTEC banner are proposed to raise awareness, particularly among the youth, fostering greater regional connectivity.

‘‘Tourism and cultural exchanges have a tremendous potential to enhance people-to-people connectivity’’, Pandey noted. So far, BIMSTEC has held three meetings of tour operators, focusing on creating regional tourism circuits and facilitating tourism from outside the region.

The Secretary General’s visit to Bhutan marks a significant step in strengthening ties and exploring new avenues for cooperation within BIMSTEC.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is increasingly establishing itself as a critical bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.

It was established on June 6, 1997, through the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. The inclusion of Bhutan and Nepal in February 2004 marked the final transition to its current name, BIMSTEC.

The primary objectives of BIMSTEC, as outlined in its charter, include accelerating economic development and social progress, promoting collaboration and mutual assistance in various fields, undertaking productive regional projects, and maintaining peace and stability in the Bay of Bengal region. Additionally, it also aims to establish beneficial relationships with other international and regional organizations.

Bhutan and Nepal joined BIMSTEC in 2004 anticipating significant benefits from regional cooperation despite their geographical detachment from the Bay of Bengal. However, the tangible benefits for these nations have been limited.

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