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BIMSTEC at 20 – Priorities for the Future

November 30, 2017    Reading Time: 2 minutes

Reading Time: 2 min read

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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 Friday, 8 December 2017 from 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM at the Lighthouse at LKI, 24 Horton Place, Colombo 7.

The keynote address will be delivered by Mrs. Grace Asirwatham, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring eminent local experts including: Adm. Dr. Jayanath Colombage, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy; Mr. Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Sumith Nakandala, former Secretary-General of BIMSTEC; and 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 an opportune time as Sri Lanka will take over 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 dialogue 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 requires regional integration, which indicates that BIMSTEC could be a foreign policy priority for Sri Lanka.

The keynote speaker, Mrs. Grace 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. Mrs. Asirwatham 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 and Pakistan. Mrs. Asirwatham has also held the post of Deputy Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

LKI is a think tank which analyses Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, to provide insights and recommendations that advance justice, peace, prosperity and sustainability. It reflects the vision of the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar by promoting the country’s intellectual profile in foreign policy research and engagement. For more information visit

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