The foreign ministers of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) member-states will meet virtually
The foreign ministers of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) member-states will meet virtually today.
BIMSTEC—comprised of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand—has already generated controversy for including Myanmar’s new foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, in today’s meeting. The decision follows the February coup that saw the Burmese military overthrow Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government. Universally condemned by international observers, the new regime’s violent crackdown on protests has also drawn criticism.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage recently stated that BIMSTEC has yet to make a decision on acceptance of the new Myanmar government. Today’s meeting agenda will likely feature discussions over COVID-19 health policies and vaccination campaigns, as Colombage will use his position as BIMSTEC chair to push post-pandemic recovery efforts in economic, educational and technological sectors.
Expect Sri Lanka to propose low-cost measures targeting public health channels, online learning and app technology. In addition, look for India to assert itself as a more independent regional power within BIMSTEC given its geopolitical tension with neighbouring China. New Delhi could very well be the first to recognise Myanmar’s new government given Beijing’s cautious disapproval of the country’s post-coup unrest.