New Delhi: India on Thursday defended Myanmar’s participation in the BIMSTEC summit, saying the country’s geographical location can determine the success of the regional grouping.
The fifth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was held virtually on March 30, during which the “BIMSTEC Charter” was adopted. It gives the consortium an international identity and defines the basic institutional architecture allowing the countries to carry out the work.
Thread revealed a day before the summit that the United States had asked India to follow ASEAN’s example and isolate Myanmar’s junta regime, which came to power in a coup. state in February 2021. This did not happen and the regional conference brought together Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Heads of State of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
Myanmar was represented by the country’s Foreign Minister, Wunna Maung Lwin.
Sri Lanka, which chaired the summit, had taken the decision to follow this formula for Myanmar’s participation, which was accepted by the other members.
On Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesman Arindam Bagchi was asked whether the United States had made any representations to India regarding Myanmar’s participation in BIMSTEC. He did not deny the claim but moved on to defend Myanmar’s involvement. He said India respects the decision of the President, Sri Lanka, that the Foreign Minister of Myanmar attend the summit in virtual mode.
“Allow me to underline that BIMSTEC is a grouping organized around the geography of the Bay of Bengal. It focuses on economic cooperation and development. We believe he has added real value to the lives of our people. Our activities include cooperation for the effective implementation of [Sustainable Development Goals] goals and cooperation in building disaster management capacity,” Bagchi said.
He said Myanmar is an important member of this grouping, adding that its “important geography” can determine BIMSTEC’s success. “We have always welcomed Myanmar’s participation in BIMSTEC activities,” he said.
On the junta’s coup, he said India had made its position clear and that “there has been no change in our desire to see democracy restored”.
Immediately after the summit, India also defended Myanmar’s cooperation, saying that for “successful cooperation activities”, all countries must be present and participate. “Myanmar is an important member of BIMSTEC and its geography is very important,” MEA Additional Secretary Rudrendra Tandon told reporters.