Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday described the Bimstec regional bloc that binds India and its subcontinental neighbours with Thailand as one of the fastest growing regions in the world.
"Ever since its inception in 1997, Bimstec, representing one-fifth of humanity, has striven to bring benefits of development to its people. Today, we have one of the fastest growth rates of any region. We have made considerable progress, although much more needs to be done," Modi said in a message on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the bloc.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The main objective of Bimstec is technical and economic cooperation among South Asian and south-east Asian countries along the rim of the Bay of Bengal.
With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) virtually rendered ineffective as a bloc, largely due to non-cooperation on the part of Pakistan in a number of areas, India has been giving more importance to Bimstec in recent times.
In his message, Modi referred to the BRICS-Bimstec Outreach Summit hosted by India in Goa last year and said: "Our collective resolve to impart fresh momentum to Bimstec has provided hope and optimism. Bimstec not only connects south and south-east Asia but also the ecologies of the great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal."
He said that the Bimstec countries, with shared values, histories, ways of life, and destinies that are interlinked, represent a common space for peace and development.
"For India, it is a natural platform to fulfil our key foreign policy priorities of Neighbourhood First and Act East," the Prime Minister said.
"I am happy to note that we are implementing the robust agenda that we agreed on in Goa, to achieve greater connectivity, trade, people-to-people contacts, and sustainable use of resources."
Modi also thanked Nepal, the current Chair of Bimstec, for its leadership, and Bangladesh, for hosting the Bimstec Secretariat in Dhaka.