Bimstec talks highlight cooperation

Bimstec leaders including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, third right, and Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, centre, pose for a group photo on Friday in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Reuters photo)

Thailand and India on Friday pledged to work more closely to enhance bilateral trade and investment cooperation under the framework of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).

Speaking after the Thai-Indian bilateral meeting at the 4th Bimstec summit in Kathmandu, deputy government spokesman Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak revealed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields of economic relations, development, and maritime and aerial connectivity.

Lt Gen Werachon, who attended the summit, said Gen Prayut also told Mr Modi that Thailand is ready to work closely with India to forge stronger economic ties and strengthen their strategic partnership.

Mr Werachon said both leaders see the importance of enhancing development cooperation and economic ties between Thailand and India.

This port connectivity will be pursued under a Thailand-initiated scheme to “Connect the Connectivities” under the pending Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement, which will be completed in 2019, aimed to connect Bimstec members through a network of ports, starting with a network that will connect Ranong province in Thailand with Chittagong in Bangladesh.

The network will then be expanded to include ports in India’s Kolkata, Chennai and Visakhapatnam, and Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka. The two leaders also discussed building a port that will connect Thailand and India through the Indian Ocean.

Lt Gen Werachon said Gen Prayut invited Mr Modi to visit Thailand, which is the Country Coordinator for Asean-India from 2018-2021.

Gen Prayut also met with Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli to discuss ways to enhance trade and investment between the countries, highlighting his readiness to work with India to enhance the Indo-Pacific scheme.

Both leaders agreed to boost trade and investment between Thailand and Nepal, especially in agricultural, tourism, construction, and consumption goods, he said.

They discussed their interest in cooperating with one another on issues like climate change and people-to-people connectivity, through the “3Ps” (Pieces, Places, People) scheme.

The scheme initiates cooperation between not only Thailand and Nepal, but also other countries with ties to Buddhism.

A big focus of that people-to-people connectivity between Thailand and Newpal is Buddhist tourism.

The two countries have shared longstanding cultural and religious ties for more than 2,000 years, with Thais travelling to Nepal to visit Buddhist sites.

They plan to further promote this tourism by developing a Buddhist storybook.

Gen Prayut encouraged other members to continue their efforts to forge closer economic ties between countries in the region. He also urged Bimstec to prioritize cooperation in infrastructure connectivity, trade and investment, people-to-people connectivity, security, and science and technology.

Bimstec’s framework aims to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance socio-economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

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