Addressing a special BIMSTEC public event held on 20th – 21st November 2020 in Bangkok, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Mrs. Samantha K. Jayasuriya said that Sri Lanka believes and promotes safety and security in navigation and peaceful and sustainable harnessing of Ocean resources as per the internationally agreed instruments, and considers it as an important priority for all of us in the Bay of Bengal or BIMSTEC Region. Speaking further on the theme of the special event, “The Bay of Bengal: An Aspiration for Sustainability”- My country’s vision on BIMSTEC”, the Ambassador said it is “our aspiration that the region should be free of all traditional and non-traditional security threats, as sustainable blue-economy is the future of our region”, and in this regard “collective efforts in strengthening mutual legal cooperation, sharing security related information and intelligence, enhancing maritime connectivity plays an important role”. For Sri Lanka, these are not limited to aspirations, but are already being set well within the National Policy Framework of the Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in securing a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka, and beyond, including the Bay of Bengal region”, the Ambassador said.
The two-day public event on the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was organized by the Institute of Asian Studies of Chulalongkorn University and BIMSTEC Network of Policy Think Tanks in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, aimed at sharing knowledge and creating better understanding among the Thai public on the diverse and rich traditions, cultures and way of life, that keep the seven countries around the Bay of Bengal together as an important regional group.
Sri Lanka as the current Chair of the BIMSTEC, during its tenure has undertaken to strengthen the institutional structure and its foundation which includes finalizing the BIMSTEC Charter, and the rationalization of sectoral and sub-sectoral partnerships, and the Ambassador said that this allocation of defined areas among the member States will enhance the focus of the future activities of BIMSTEC. “As the lead country for Science, Technology and Innovation with sub sectors Technology, Health and Human Resource Development, during this COVID 19 health pandemic that has impacted every aspect of normal life including the economies of member States, Sri Lanka is looking forward to present its proposals on innovative use of technologies, as well as setting up and operationalization of the BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility (TTF) in Sri Lanka”, Ambassador Jayasuriya said.
She further stated that the seven BIMSTEC countries around the world’s largest Bay- the Bay of Bengal cherish a shared histories and cultures, ranging from a rice-based culture to vibrant civilization, yet they maintain unique identities as sovereign Nation States, and this diversity and uniqueness in each of the seven member States is the strength of BIMSTEC. The Ambassador said that the event calls for more celebration as on 20th November 2020, Sri Lanka and Thailand celebrates 65 years of establishing diplomatic relations. She also added that Sri Lanka is confident that great headway could be achieved in the next lap of BIMSTEC under the able leadership of Thailand, when the leadership of the organization is handed over to Thailand by Sri Lanka early next year.
The Ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of all seven BIMSTEC nations attended this event, and shared the views of the respective countries on BIMSTEC. Head of Chancery, Mrs. Poornima Gunasekera coordinated Sri Lanka’s participation and the staff of the Embassy joined at the special Sri Lanka booth in promoting Sri Lanka tourism, cuisine including Ceylon tea and spices, which was well received by the Thai public.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
23rd November 2020
The Bay of Bengal-An Aspiration for Sustainability –Sri Lanka’s Vision for BIMSTEC
Associate Professor Nualnoi Treerat- Director of the Institute of Asian Studies of the Chulalongkorn University,
Mr. Rujikorn Saengchantr, Deputy Director General of the Division of Economic Relations, Promotion & International Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand
Excellences-fellow Ambassadors of Bay of Bengal member States
Distinguished participants, ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset, I wish to thank the Institute of Asian Studies of the Chulalongkorn University, and BIMSTEC Network of Policy Think Tanks, the thai ministry of Foreign Affairs and the MBK Center management, for co-organizing this two-day event on the ‘Bay of Bengal- An Aspiration for Sustainability’, bringing the seven member States to share their respective countries vision on the region. This event enables to share knowledge and create better understanding among the Thai Public on the diverse and rich traditions, cultures and way of life that keep the countries around the Bay of Bengal together as an important regional group.
As we gather here to celebrate our strength in diversity as a region- today-the 20th November is a special day for both Sri Lanka and Thailand, as both our countries mark 65 years of establishing diplomatic relations. Hence, it is with great pleasure that I join this event today. The seven BIMSTEC countries around the world’s largest Bay-the Bay of Bengal shares one of the most strategic navigational area, and we can obviously aspire to explore our potential for more connectivity and integration within this important region. When the predecessor of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was first mooted here in Bangkok in the year 1997 by Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand for Economic cooperation (BIST-EC), it was envisaged to be the important bridge between the South Asia and South East Asia. As the Declaration of the BIMSTEC First Summit in 2004 stipulates, the objectives of the Forum was to assess the challenges and opportunities for economic cooperation in the region and to strengthening BIMSTEC’s ability to find ways and means to realize those challenges and opportunities efficiently and effectively.
Two decades later, BIMSTEC today is home for over 1.5 billion peoples- or 22% of world population. They cherish a shared histories and cultures, yet maintain unique identities as sovereign Nation States- in Economic terms; as Asian region is undoubtedly going to be the economic engine of the global economy, the BIMSTEC provides a USD 2.7 trillion market. The organizational modality of this regional alliance is aimed at harnessing cooperation in mutually beneficial 14 areas on sector wise- where each member State having strong background in a particular sectoral area leads the sectoral dialogue with the support of others. These sectors has greater interconnectedness aiming at enhancing exchange of knowledge, capacity building ranging from trade & investment to poverty alleviation, energy to technology, cultural cooperation to tourism, transportation and communication to connectivity through people to people contacts. Collective endevours in mutually recognized areas or sectors has been the signature of BIMSTEC, and it has helped disperse the know-how narrowing the capacity gaps in some member States within this ‘all-developing country’ group with greater empathy and solidarity.
As the current Chair in Office of the BIMSTEC, Sri Lanka during its tenure has undertaken to strengthen the institutional structure and its foundation which includes finalizing the BIMSTEC Charter, and the rationalization of sectoral and sub-sectoral partnerships. The allocation of defined areas among the member States will add more focus to the future activities of BIMSTEC. Sri Lanka was also able to give leadership to finalize the MoUs for establishing the BIMSTEC Centers and mutual cooperation between diplomatic academies/training institutions of BIMSTEC member States. As Thailand will take over the leadership of the Organization from Sri Lanka by early next year, it is our hope that greater headway could be achieved in the next lap under the able leadership of Thailand.
Further, as the lead country for Science, technology and innovation with sub sectors technology, health and human resource development, Sri Lanka is looking forward to present its proposals as well as setting up and operationalization of the BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility (TTF) in Sri Lanka once the MoA become effective. In the unprecedented challenge posed by COVID-19 health crisis into all aspects of normal life, it has become inevitable for all of us to engage collectively to find the best solutions to be resilient and to also build back better. Science, technology and innovative tools particularly e-commerce has taken a prime place in driving the economic activities. We may not be able to do business as usual in the post COVID situation, and in this regards, building on the existing foundation to make the sectoral areas of cooperation more relevant and pragmatic, yielding tangible and sustainable outcomes is essential.
For the BIMSTEC region, in Sri Lanka’s perspective, there is unaccomplished work if we aspire to seek more integration in trade, particularly in giving effect to the signed FTA. It will become an important indication of regional integration particularly in the context of other regional FTAs getting into fruition. It is important to address barriers for trade within the region and get more focused on projects related to enhancing capacities in trade related infrastructure. As BIMSTEC has focused extensively during the previous Summits, further progress and innovative ways of enhancing connectivity – both in logistical and people-to-people is a key in galvanizing integration within the region. As an island nation in the Indian ocean amidst the strategic east-west sea routes, Sri Lanka believes and promotes safety and security in navigation and peaceful and sustainable harnessing of Ocean resources as per the internationally agreed instruments and considers it as an important priority for all of us. Hence, it is our aspiration that the region should be free of all traditional and non-traditional security threats. Sustainable blue-economy is the future of our region and collective efforts in strengthening mutual legal cooperation, sharing security related information and intelligence, enhancing maritime connectivity plays an important role. For Sri Lanka, these are not simply aspirations, but they are being already set well within the National Policy Framework of the Government of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in securing a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka and beyond including the Bay of Bengal region. As we collectively and individually endeavor to sustain and bounce back as resilient nations in this challenging times and economic downturns, the hope lies within aggressive pursuing of common goals, sustainable management of limited resources. We have achieved some progress over the past twenty years, yet we all know there is much untapped potential to exploit.
Excellences, ladies and Gentlemen,
We have every confidence that Thailand will steer this seven-member regional alliance into its next stage taking the baton from Sri Lanka. Let’s stand together in support and solidarity.