To cement economic, trade and security cooperation with friendly neighbouring countries in South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the fifth summit of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on March 30.

BIMSTEC is a regional organisation that was established on June 6, 1997, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration.

"The summit meeting, which is being held in virtual mode, will be hosted by Sri Lanka, the current BIMSTEC chair," the Ministry of External Affairs said on Saturday.

To prepare for the summit, meetings of BIMSTEC Senior Officials (SOM) will take place on March 28, followed by meetings of the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers (BMM) the next day.

The Covid pandemic related challenges, and the uncertainties within the international system that all BIMSTEC members are facing, imparts greater urgency to the goal of taking BIMSTEC technical and economic cooperation to the next level.

This is expected to be the main subject of deliberations by leaders at the summit.

The leaders are also expected to discuss the establishment of basic institutional structures and mechanisms of the group.

The member countries of BIMSTEC are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Being a sector-driven grouping, cooperation within BIMSTEC had initially focused on six sectors in 1997 -- trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism, and fisheries -- and expanded in 2008 to incorporate agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change.

Subsequently, following steps to rationalize and reorganize sectors and sub-sectors, cooperation was reorganized in 2021.