Senior officials from BIMSTEC hold meeting ahead of Nov 13 Summit

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New Delhi, Nov 11 (UNI) Senior officials from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries met here today to prepare ground for the Summit meeting of the Heads of State/Government from BIMSTEC countries to be held here on Thursday.

The two-day conference, held every three years, will begin tomorrow with the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of BIMSTEC countries comprising Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand besides India.

BIMSTEC, established in 1997, accounts for about 22 per cent of the world's population. The last Summit was held in Bangkok in 2004.

The conference will focus on forging closer integration between member countries and strengthen bonds between South Asia and South East Asia, N Ravi, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry said.

Specific areas expected to be covered include trans-national crimes, trade and tourism, counter-terrorism, infrastructure and health. Focus will be on trade and connectivity, officials said.

The leaders are also expected to review progress on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among BIMSTEC member states, officials said.

A framework agreement for the FTA, which covers goods, services and investment, was signed at the 2004 Summit.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda are among the world leaders who will attend the Summit.

They are also likely to hold separate bilateral meetings with the Indian Prime Minister.


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