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      Event Title: BIMSTEC at 20: Priorities and Prospects
      Topic: ISAS-COSATT-KAS Workshop
      Date/Time: Monday,24 September 2018 10:30 - Monday,24 September 2018 17:45
      Venue: UNDP Auditorium, 29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Block A, Level 8, Singapore 119620
      Speaker/s: Multiple Speakers
      Registration link: https://isas-cosatt-kas-bimstec.eventbrite.sg/
      Description: On 24 September 2018 at the workshop "BIMSTEC at 20: Priorities and Prospects" scholars, policy-makers and dignitaries reflected on the achievements and future challenges of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The event was the result of joint efforts by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), the Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT), and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Singapore (KAS). The event was opened by the representatives of the three partner organizations: Dr Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead for Trade and Economics (ISAS); Dr Nishchal Pandey, Convenor of COSATT, and Mr Christian Echle, Director of the Regional Programme POlitical Dialogue Asia (KAS).
      Focused on a variety of fields, including economic integration, connectivity, energy and counter-terrorism, BIMSTEC is the only organization bridging the two regions of South and Southeast Asia. Its aims at boosting multi-sectorial integration among member countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand. With the latest BIMSTEC Summit concluded just one month ago in Nepal, the proposed reinvigoration of the 20 years-old organization acquires particular significance within the contemporary international context, characterized by the return of nationalist and protectionist policies.
      In his Keynote Address Amb M Shahidhul Islam, Secretary of BIMSTEC, said he was optimist with regard to the future prospects of the organization. He highlighted that along the years it progressively expanded its outreach/expertise/focus, while undergoing a process of institutional transformation which led -- among the other things -- to the institution of the Secretariat headquartered in Dhaka (2014).
      In his Keynote Address Amb M Shahidhul Islam, Secretary of BIMSTEC, said he was optimist with regard to the future prospects of the organization. He highlighted that along the years it progressively expanded its outreach/expertise/focus, while undergoing a process of institutional transformation which led -- among the other things -- to the institution of the Secretariat headquartered in Dhaka (2014). The 4h BIMSTEC Summit (Kathmandu, 30-31 August 2018) highlighted the need for the organization to improve on implementation and efficiency. The proposal of identifying few core areas of collaboration was advanced by Thailand to this purpose. Amb Islam commented that, while such possibility is being considered, there is no doubt that Trade & Investments and Connectivity will remain at the core of BIMSTEC’s work. He also added that he is confident that the FTA will soon be signed.
      While delivering the Special Address, Amb Ong Keng Yong -- Executive Deputy Chairman of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Univeristy of Singapore {add also ASEAN designation?}} -- highlighted that the current will to strenghten the BIMSTEC mechanism provides an opportunity that shall not be missed. It is therefore imperative to act quickly to produce tangible results. He added that enhancing infrastructure and standardize regulations to allow people and goods to travel across borders easily are of fundamental importance to this purpose. In addition to this, equally necessary steps will include digitalization of the local economy and engagement local populations. Rather than further expanding the potential foci of its activity -- AMb Ong said -- BIMSTEC shall target “low hanging fruits” such as business and market development. These will create goodwill and trust in the organization’s potential: a virtuous spillover effect able to open the way to other types of cooperation.
      In the following two panels specialists in the field heading from the various BIMSTEC member states offered a country-perspective on the organization and the possible way ahead. The featured panellists were Amb Biren Nanda (Senior Fellow, Delhi Policy Group); Mr Kamal Thapa (Former Deputy Prime Minister and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal); Mr Asanga Abeyagoonasekera (Director General, Institute of National Security Studies of Sri Lanka); Mr Faiz Sobhan (Senior Research Director, Bangladesh Entreprise Institute); Prof Nu Nu Lwin (Professor, Yangon University of Economics); Dr Sathaporn Opasanon (Associate Professor, Thamassat University). Maj Gen (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman (President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies) and Maj Gen AKM Abdur Rahman (Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies) chaired the two sessions.