On 17 July 2023, Thailand hosted the inaugural BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Bangkok, in which the seven BIMSTEC members expressed their renewed resolve to build a stronger, more resilient, and more relevant grouping. The Retreat was chaired by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was well-participated by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
The Ministers appreciated the usefulness of the Retreat, which facilitated an exchange of ideas in an informal setting and agreed on the need to strengthen BIMSTEC’s organizational framework and collaborative mechanisms to make BIMSTEC a more effective body for growth and prosperity of the region. In addition, they also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual concerns.
There was a broad agreement on the importance of creating crisis response mechanisms to coordinate for different contingencies. Food, public health, energy, financial security, as well as trade and economic cooperation were at the core of the discussions as well. Furthermore, the meeting also considered establishing digital payment systems and trade settlements, as well as strengthening cooperation in cyber security and prevention of transnational crimes.
The Ministers also deemed essential an exchange of views and coordination on global and UN-related issues, including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change. Other topics raised during the session included BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection, agriculture technology, cultural cooperation, youth exchange, and diplomatic training.
The Ministers welcomed the progress on the setting up of an Eminent Persons Group to chart out the road map for the organization to ensure greatest benefits to member countries and their peoples.
The Ministers agreed to hold a Retreat on a regular basis, preferably in the first quarter of each year. In addition, India also offered to host the next BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the forthcoming UNGA in September 2023.
Thailand is currently the Chair of BIMSTEC, or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, for the term 2022-2023, aspiring to propel the region towards a “Prosperous, Resilient, and Open BIMSTEC” or “PRO BIMSTEC” by 2030.