The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a regional grouping of seven South and South East Asian nations, is all set to start its permanent secretariat in Dhaka in mid-September, foreign office sources confirmed.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told The Daily Observer "The BIMSTEC Secretariat is completely ready for its formal opening and it would be launched in September."
The functioning of the secretariat will fulfil the vision for free trade in the region, he remarked.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to inaugurate the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Gulshan diplomatic area on September 15, sources said.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Sumit Nakandala, a seasoned diplomat from Sri Lanka, assumed office in the new BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka on August 10, 2014. He has been working with a director.
As expected earlier, none of the foreign ministers or foreign secretaries of six countries was invited due to delay in getting confirmation of Sheikha Hasina's schedule, said Director General (BIMSTEC) Abdul Motaleb Sarkar.
Earlier in March, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed at Nay Pyi Taw, the administrative capital of Myanmar during hosting of the third BIMSTEC Summit.
Bangladesh was qualified to host the Secretariat as it centres the BIMSTEC regional grouping with India virtually bordering it, Sri Lanka and Nepal to the West, Bhutan to the North, and Thailand and Myanmar to the east of it, described a foreign office senior official.
Formed initially in June, 1997 with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand for economic cooperation, the BIMSTEC turned into seven-member forum with inclusion of Myanmar in 1997, Nepal and Bhutan in 2003. The bloc encompasses 1.3 billion people, accounting for 21 per cent of the world population, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of about $ 2.5 trillion.
Unlike SAARC, BIMSTEC's economic agenda is less vulnerable to regional politics and therefore it should now also look at building a strong link between South and East Asia.
The main objective of BIMSTEC is to create an environment for rapid economic development through identification and implementation of specific programmes in the 14 identified areas of cooperation: Trade and Investment, Technology, Energy, Transport and Communication, Tourism, Fisheries, Agriculture, Cultural Cooperation, Environment and Disaster Management, Public Health, People-to-People Contact, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime and Climate Change.
Bangladesh is the Lead Country for the areas of Trade, investment and climate change.