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Three BIMSTEC ambassadors discuss potential of group but maintain it can't be alternative to SAARC

Chutintorn Gongsakdi, Ambassador of Thailand in conversation to WION. Photograph:( WION )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jun 18, 2019, 06.27 PM (IST)

In the inaugural session of WION's brand new show WION World Order, three BIMSTEC ambassadors discussed unlocking the potential of the region and how India can be the key. 

The inaugural session focused on the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation or BIMSTEC and saw Austin Fernando, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India; Chutintorn Gongsakdi, Ambassador of Thailand and Syed Muazzem Ali Bangladesh's High Commissioner to India discuss how shared prosperity can be increased among the BIMSTEC member countries. 

To begin with, WION's Palki Sharma Upadhyay asked the guests to reflect on the potential of the BIMSTEC and whether the forum can be seen as a replacement of SAARC. Here's what the diplomats had to say. 

Gongsakdi: Thailand isn't part of SAARC. India has renewed interest in  BIMSTEC. All regional groupings have a similar agenda. For us, India will be important in every context, whether it is ASEAN or BIMSTEC. BIMSTEC is another platform where we can play out our agenda - trade and investment, connectivity.

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Syed Muazzem: SAARC was promoted to boost regional cooperation among seven South Asian countries under the forum. BIMSTEC is an inter-regional organisation, it is not exactly meant to be a replacement. SAARC hasn't made much progress, it has suffered a setback but that doesn't mean it is dead. I am sure it can be revived. It has its own agenda and BIMSTEC has its own.  

Austin Fernando: There are several regional organisations that have been coming up. Each has different priorities. BIMSTEC is, of course, deviating. SAARC, BIMSTEC talk of regional cooperation. We must make the use of the various organisation to achieve a particular purpose. Replacement is not the solution. 

Founded in 1997, BIMSTEC currently represents over 1.5 billion people and having a combined gross domestic product of US $2.7 trillion.

Story highlights

WION's Palki Sharma Upadhyay asked the guests to reflect on the potential of the BIMSTEC and whether the forum can be seen as a replacement of SAARC.