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made significant progress. We should conclude this at the earliest such that the people of the region can benefit from each other.
"In the interim, we also need to promote customs cooperation, conclude a dispute resolution mechanism and encourage business-to-business links that will promote trade and investment in the region," Khurshid said.
He stressed that the strategic imperative of the time was to bring out economic development, promote technology and innovation and provide a better livelihood to the peoples.
Khurshid said the third key area that needed greater regional cooperation was energy.
"The engine of economic development is energy. Our region is blessed with natural resources and cooperation on use of gas, hydro power and renewable energy sources, grid interconnections and coordination on energy policy will enable mutually beneficial development," Khurshid said.
He emphasised on the need for experts to evolve regional energy policies and highlighted that the BIMSTEC Energy Centre being established in Bengaluru could play an important role in this endeavour.
Fourth area of cooperation that needed emphasis and attention of BIMSTEC members, Khurshid said was security.
"We still live in a difficult neighbourhood with the incidence of terrorism and other transnational crimes. I am happy that our group has made significant advances in building the legal architecture to combat such a menace and developed functional cooperation between our agencies," Khurshid said.
"The Convention on Combating Terrorism, signed in 2009, is awaiting ratification in several countries. The Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance is Criminal Matters has been finalised and is ready for signature," he said.
Khurshid called for closer cooperation in this area, saying "a peaceful environment is a pre-requisite for a harmonious society and for progress and prosperity".
The fifth and the final area of cooperation that Khurshid enumerated was people-to-people links.
"This is the strongest link as it brings together our cultural experiences, promotes tourism, youth exchanges and forms and abiding connection," Khurshid said.
"We have a wealth of riches in our historical sites, natural parks and societies which can promote the flow of people across the borders. Such tourism will build closer bonds and promote a cooperative spirit among the people. The experience of the Network of Think Tanks started by Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) is an important contribution in the academic sphere," he said.
India, Khurshid said, was proud to be a member of BIMSTEC with "such worthy partners".