Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit next week to attend the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit in Kathmandu on 30-31 August.

Modi, who will be visiting Nepal for the fourth time during his tenure, is also expected to inaugurate a 400-bed ‘dharamshala’ built with Indian assistance at the Pashupatinath temple premises in Kathmandu during the trip.

BIMSTEC is a regional organisation comprising seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. The seven nations are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

India has been giving utmost importance to this grouping since SAARC has failed to emerge as a vibrant regional association because of Pakistan’s negative attitude. Observers say BIMSTEC could indeed replace SAARC in the near future.

Briefing the media on Friday on the PM’s visit, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, said that apart from attending the summit, Modi would hold bilateral talks with leaders from all other participating nations.

At the end of the summit, the member-countries would come out with a joint declaration covering various areas of cooperation amongst them, including security, trade, environment, connectivity, counter-terrorism and non-traditional threats.

The declaration would also specify BIMSTEC’s position on global issues of concern. The seven countries would also ink some other documents which were still under negotiations.

In response to a question, she said the seven BIMSTEC nations were negotiating a Free trade area (FTA) agreement and also considering organising tri-services joint exercises on disaster management and other such issues.

The summit would be preceded by a meeting of senior officials from BIMSTEC countries on 28 August and another of foreign ministers the next day.