[International Institutions] BIMSTEC

What is BIMSTEC?

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • On 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • Its members lie in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • It mainly aims to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development; accelerate social progress; and promote collaboration on matters of common interest in the region.
  • This sub-regional organization came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • Initially, it was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’(Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • It became renamed ‘BIMST-EC’in 1997, following the inclusion of Myanmar.
  • With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan in 2004, the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

Member Nations

  • Though BIMSTEC is a Bay of Bengal camp, two land-locked states — Nepal and Bhutan — are also part of the seven member-group. Five of them are from South Asia — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka — and two from South East Asia — Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Leadership is rotated in alphabetical order of country names.
  • The permanent secretariat is in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • The BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariatat Dhaka was opened in 2014 and India contributes 33% of its expenditure.

Trick to Remember

MBBS NIT- Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, SriLanka, Nepal, India, Thailand

Nishkama karma🇮🇳/ ನಿಷ್ಕಾಮ ಕರ್ಮ on Twitter: "#BIMSTEC ...

OBJECTIVES

  • Creating an enabling environment for the rapid economic development of the sub-region.
  • Encouraging the spirit of equality and partnership.
  • Promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in the areas of common interests of the member countries
  • Accelerating support for each other in the fields of education, science, and technology, etc.

PRINCIPALS

  • Sovereign Equality
  • Territorial Integrity
  • Political Independence
  • No-interference in Internal Affairs
  • Peaceful Co- existence
  • Mutual Benefit
  • Constitute an addition to and not be a substitute for bilateral, regional or multilateral cooperation involving the Member States.

STRATEGIC RELEVANCE

  • Bridge between South and South East Asiaand represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
  • Platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEANmembers.
  • Home to around 1.5 billion people that constitute around 22% of the global population.
  • With a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy, BIMSTEC Member States have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory in the last five years.
  • The Bay of Bengal is the route for about 25% of global trade.

Important Connectivity Projects:

  • Kaladan Multimodal Project – links India and Myanmar.
  • Asian Trilateral Highway – connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
  • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement – for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic.

INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISMS

  • BIMSTEC Summit –highest policymaking body in BIMSTEC process and is comprised of heads of state/government of member states.
  • Ministerial Meeting –second apex policy-making forum of BIMSTEC attended by the External/Foreign Ministers of Member States.
  • Senior Officials’ Meeting –represented by Senior Officials of Foreign Ministries of the Member States.
  • BIMSTEC Working Group –attended by Ambassadors of BIMSTEC Member Countries to Bangladesh or their representatives on a monthly basis at the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka.
  • Business Forum & Economic Forum –the two important forums to ensure active participation of private sector.

INDIA AND BIMSTEC

Allows India to pursue three core policies:

  • Neighborhood First – primacy to the country’s immediate periphery;
  • Act East – connect India with Southeast Asia; and
  • Economic development of India’s northeastern states – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • Allows India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • A new platform for India to engage with its neighbors with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) becoming dysfunctional because of differences between India and Pakistan.
  • PM of India has referred BIMSTEC as a natural platformfor fulfilling our key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighborhood First’and ‘Act East, as it connects not only South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • BIMSTEC engagement is completely in consonance with the SAGAR Initiativesobjective of increasing connectivity and development in North eastern states of India.

CHALLENGES

  • Lack of human and financial resource.
  • The focus of BIMSTEC is very wide, including 14 areas of cooperation like connectivity, public health, agriculture etc. 
  • BIMSTEC planned to hold summits every two years, ministerial meetings every year, but only four summits have taken place in 20 years.
  • Lack of good infrastructurehas acted as barrier to trade by raising cost and time.
  • Underlying aspirations of Chinato be part of BIMSTEC, on the same lines as it harnesses a desire to be a permanent part of SAARC groupings, further aggravates the problem.
  • Bilateral Issues between Member Nations
  • The lack of critical support strong and clear political commitment, adequate financial resources, full engagement of business and industry, and optimal involvement of civil society.
  • BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was negotiated in 2004, talks on it are yet to be concluded.

Way Forward

  • Should hold meetings more frequently.  Concentrate on advancing a constructive approach to connectivity.
  • Strive to help keep the waters of the Bay of Bengal open, free, and peaceful, by seeking to show how to manage them as a regional commons.
  • Encourage its member states to embrace maritime multilateralism. Promote the region as an integrated tourism area.
  • Contribute to regional mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes, for example on borders and fisheries, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS)
  • Must be prepared to help address bilateral tensions
  • Develop an internal dialogue on the role of democracy in promoting economic development, security, and stability among its member states
  • Needs a leader-India (as the region’s most powerful country) will have to step up, invest resources, and sustain interest in the Bay of Bengal’s leading institution.
  • Should consider declaring the bay a blue economic zone. Help its members coordinate their national efforts to monitor the environment.