India shifts focus from Saarc to Bimstec with invite to PM Modi oath

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New Delhi, May 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on Thursday will be attended by leaders from the BIMSTEC member states. The president of Kyrgyztan and the Mauritius prime minister have been invited as well.

The BIMSTEC, or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, member states are: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan and India.

“Government of India has invited the leaders of the BIMSTEC Member States for the swearing-in ceremony. This is in line with government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. The President of the Kyrgyz Republic, who is the current Chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Prime Minister of Mauritius, who was the Chief Guest at this year’s Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, have also been invited,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The invitation fits in well with two key policies of the dispensation in New Delhi — “neighbourhood first” and “Act East” — considering that Bimstec member states account for 22 percent of the world’s population and have a combined Gross Domestic Product of nearly $2.7 trillion.

It is clear that India is looking to the two-decade-old BIMSTEC to get around the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which has become dysfunctional because of differences between New Delhi and Islamabad, and to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative.

The BIMSTEC is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. The two Southeast Asian countries in the grouping, Myanmar and Thailand, have a crucial place for India’s ambitious connectivity plans for northeastern region

In 2014, PM Modi had invited all SAARC leaders, including then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharief for his swearing-in ceremony.

“The President will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the Prime Minister and other members of the Union council of ministers at 7pm on May 30, 2019, at Rashtrapati Bhavan,” read the statement issued on Sunday.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday designated Modi as the next Prime Minister and asked him to form the new government.

The NDA has a strength of 353 MPs in the 543-member Lok Sabha out of which the BJP has a majority of 303 MPs.

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