Health is now a crucial agenda of discussion among member states ever since COVID-19 pandemic occurred: BIMSTEC Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell
Kolkata: BIMSTEC Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell on Saturday said health has emerged as a crucial agenda of discussion among the member states ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020.
"The COVID-19 made us realise that the pandemic is an important agenda and as a region, we need to come together," he told IBNS at the sidelines of the two-day BIMSTEC meet in Kolkata.
"Before the pandemic, we were focussing more on issues like trade, connectivity, energy, and electricity. However, there was little discussion on health. Now, we have understood that health is also an important component and it should be an agenda of the region," he said.
He said Sri Lanka has been identified as the lead country for coordinating and planning on public health matters.
He said the BIMSTEC 'Energy Centre' will be set up in Bengaluru.
"This region has a huge potential for clean and renewable energy. Energy is the key issue of discussion these days," Tenzin Lekphell said.
"We have renewed our focus on discussing issues related to electricity and energy," he said.
Interestingly, India hosted the first meeting of the Governing Board of BIMSTEC Energy Centre (BEC) in Bengaluru on Feb 27.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the meet, he said: "The BIMSTEC areas of cooperation has also been reformed by rationalizing 14 areas of cooperation into seven sectors and subsectors of cooperation, and each member country has been given the mandate or the responsibility to lead a sector and thereby building ownership and ensuring a better local cooperation."
"The BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, MoU on Mutual Cooperation between Diplomatic Academies, MoU on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility in Colombo and the Adoption of BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity shows that BIMSTEC is on the right track," he said.
"Further, and most recently, the 19th Ministerial Meeting has also approved the BIMSTEC Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement, which will significantly benefit the Member States as it will give free access to boats and enhance trade and transportation of goods and cargo between the member states," he said.
Tenzin Lekphell, however, admitted that the business journey has not been without its challenges.
“Nonetheless, we believe crisis also creates opportunities, and BIMSTEC holds much promise as a platform for cooperation, our institutions, mechanisms and legal frameworks are getting more concrete and established," he said.
"Ministerial meetings and senior official meetings are increasingly getting more interactive, engaging and more regular. Our leaders and their political will and commitment to BIMSTEC is also increasingly gaining peace,” he said.
(Reporting by Supriyo Hazra,Image by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)