A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of a regional power grid will be signed during the upcoming Kathmandu Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
The BIMSTEC secretariat expected that at least four instruments, including MoU on establishment of technology transfer facility, MoU on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and MoU on cooperation among diplomatic academies of BIMSTEC countries would be signed at the summit scheduled to start on Thursday.
"Earlier, we expected that four instruments would be signed at the summit, but so far only one has been agreed by all the member countries," a senior official of BIMSTEC told the FE on Sunday.
Drafts for three other instruments were almost finalised, but these could not be ratified by all the members due to the absence of any cabinet in Bhutan which will have its general election after the summit.
Despite having no visible progress, free trade agreement (FTA) among BIMSTEC countries will be a key focus at the upcoming Kathmandu Summit.
However, FTA among the BIMSTEC countries remains elusive till now despite hectic parley from some countries and the BIMSTEC secretariat.
Initially India and Thailand were reluctant, but later they agreed to resume trade negotiations.
The meeting of the Trade Negotiation Committee was deferred thrice this year.
First it was scheduled for July, then it was rescheduled for August but due to Myanmar's objection, it was again scheduled for the first week of September.
But this time Bhutan says that they will not attend the TNC meeting in September and hence the next date for the meeting is yet to be finalised, BIMSTEC sources said.
Talking to the FE, BIMSTEC Secretary General Shahidul Islam said he was optimistic about a political guideline from the member countries about FTA.
Mr Islam and other senior officials of BIMSTEC left Dhaka for Kathmandu on Sunday.
The secretary general also called for speedy conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement within the group comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
"We need to expedite the BIMSTEC FTA to boost our intra-regional trade from its present level of 7 per cent to 21 per cent," he said.
However, the signing of the MoU on power grid at Kathmandu Summit would facilitate power trade among the member countries.
The establishment of the power grid will be "a game changer" in economic cooperation among the seven countries.
The draft was finalised at the taskforce meeting held in Naypyidaw in January 2017.
Initially, it was decided that energy ministers of the member countries would sit in Kathmandu in February this year to sign the MoU.
But later the member countries decided to sign the agreement at the upcoming summit.
The MoU provides broad framework for the members to cooperate towards implementation of grid interconnections for electricity trade to promote rational and optimal power transmission in the BIMSTEC region.
It also provides optimisation of using energy resources in the region for mutual benefits on non-discriminatory basis subject to rules and regulations, laws of member countries, the BIMSTEC official said.
The common grid also aims to promote efficient, economic, and secure the operation of power system needed through the development of the regional electricity networks.
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