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What is BIMST-EC & Its February 23, 2005 Kolkata Declaration


On 6 June 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok and given the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation). Myanmar attended the inaugural June Meeting as an observer and joined the organization as a full member at a Special Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok on 22 December 1997, upon which the name of the grouping was changed to BIMST-EC. Nepal was granted observer status by the second Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka in December 1998. Subsequently, full membership has been granted to Nepal and Bhutan in 2003. During the First Summit in Bangkok on 31 July 2004, the grouping’s name was eventually changed to the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’, or BIMSTEC.

BIMSTEC covers a population of approximately 1.3 billion and the trade value between Thailand and other countries in the group exceeded US$3 billion in 2003. The forum is unique as the only link between South Asia and Southeast Asia, bridging South Asia’s Look East policy with Thailand’s Look West policy. BIMSTEC can also be considered as a mechanism to promote opportunities for trade, investment and tourism between Thailand and South Asia.

Why BIMSTEC  is so important for this region ?

BIMSTEC’s objectives stretch from creation of economic and social prosperity based on equality, to enhancement of mutual benefits in economic, social and technological aspects. They also involve intra-regional assistance in the form of training, research and development as well as beneficial cooperation in the areas of agriculture, industry, expansion of trade and investment, improvement in communication and transport, for the purpose of improving living standards and cooperation with other international organisations.

During the Round Table and Workshop of Tourism Ministers of BIMST-EC countries held in Kolkata, India on February 21-23, 2005, a plan of action was drawn. As per the Plan of Action, it was agreed that a Tour Package would be developed involving two or more countries and the member countries would explore synergies between SASEC and BIMSTEC in the tourism sector. Apart from economic cooperation, BIMSTEC also seeks to make tourism a tool to benefit rural and poor communities. 

At the end of Round Table and Workshop of Tourism Ministers of BIMST-EC countries on February 23, 2005 at Kolkata, India,  Tourism Ministers and representatives of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bhutan signed Kolkata Declaration on Tourism Cooperation. The Declaration says that all member countries 

Agree to utilize the BIMSTEC for providing a fresh impetus to further development of tourism within the region;

Recognize that the future development of tourism in this region will largely depend upon the closer cooperation in transport network i.e. by air, land and water;

Agree to reap the maximum advantage from the plethora of heritage, cultural, adventure, eco-tourism and MICE tourism product that our countries have to offer in a sustainable manner;

Agree to devise attractive and cost-effective thematic, tour Packages connecting different tourists destinations among the BIMSTEC member countries;

Note that simplification of immigration procedures and other frontier fon11nlities shall facilitate faster movement of people in a hassle free manner ;

Agree to draw up a compendium of rccognized tour operators and hotel facilities available in our countries;

Agree to share our "best practices" on tourism related activities that are currently in vogue in our respective countries.

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