The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka will host a dialogue on ‘BIMSTEC at 20 – Priorities for the Future.’
The event will be held on December 8th (from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Lighthouse at LKI, Colombo 7.
The keynote address will be delivered by Grace Asirwatham, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring local experts including; Adm. Dr. Jayanath Colombage, Former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy; Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Sumith Nakandala, Former Secretary General of BIMSTEC; Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, Chair of LKI’s Global Economy Programme.
This event comes at a perfect time as Sri Lanka will take over the chairmanship on the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in 2018. BIMSTEC is a unique regional bloc as it comprises countries of both South Asia and Southeast Asia namely; Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. This event aims to (1) understand the potential of BIMSTEC for advancing regional integration in the Bay of Bengal and (2) identify and discuss key steps Sri Lanka could take to harness the potential of BIMSTEC to reduce trade barriers and improve connectivity between member states. The Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 indicates that most countries in South Asia have improved their competitiveness, and show positive economic momentum. Moving forward would require regional integration, which indicates that BIMSTEC could be a foreign policy priority for Sri Lanka. The keynote speaker, Asirwatham, is a senior member of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service (SLFS) and was appointed to the post of State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2017. She has held several senior positions in the Ministry, the most recent being the Additional Secretary for Economic Affairs and Trade, West (Political Affairs), and Middle East and Africa. Previously, she has served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Nepal and The Netherlands and in other positions in Sri Lanka Missions in Germany