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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 28 December, 2023

  • 7 Min Read

BIMSTEC – South Asia

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was established in the 1997 Bangkok Declaration with a secretariat in Dhaka.
  • 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.

BIMSTEC Member Countries

  • Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan (No Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  • The BIMSTEC countries are home to a population of around 1.5 billion, approximately 21% of global population, with a cumulative GDP of US$ 2.5 trillion. The annual GDP growth rate has averaged around 6 %.
  • The BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat Dhaka was opened in 2014 and India contributes 33% of its expenditure.
  • The current Secretary General of the BIMSTEC is Ambassador Mohammad Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh and the former Secretary General was Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka.
  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of the BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).

Objective

  • Technical and economic cooperation among members.
  • 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.
  • Act as a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries

Previous BIMSTEC Summit

  • 1st Summit (2004) – Bangkok (Thailand)
  • 2nd Summit (2008) – New Delhi (India)
  • 3rd Summit (2014) – Nay Pyi Daw (Myanmar)
  • 4th Summit (2018) – Kathmandu (Nepal)
  • 5th Summit (2022) – Colombo (Sri Lanka)

various BIMSTEC Centres?

  • BIMSTEC Energy Centre (BEC) – It is to be housed in the premises of the Central Power Research Institute in Bengaluru, India.
  • It will also function as the Secretariat of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection Coordination Committee.
  • BIMSTEC Centre on Weather and Climate - It is located in the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) in Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory – In 2006, it was proposed for the establishment of BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Commission (BCIC) and the BIMTEC Cultural Industries Observatory (BCIO) in Bhutan.
  • BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility – The Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment was signed in 2022 during the 5th BIMSTEC Summit but its entry into force is awaited.

What are the shortcomings?

  • It has decided not to go-ahead with the BIMSTEC Development Fund.
  • Negotiation of the BIMSTEC FTA is yet to be completed.
  • BIMSTEC grid connectivity and energy projects are yet to take off.
  • While the connectivity plan is ready, the real implementation is yet to start.
  • The postponement of the 6th Summit has slowed BIMSTEC integration.

What lies ahead?

  • 6th BIMSTEC summit under the chairmanship of Thailand will be held in 2024 with promising features like
    • Adoption of the BIMSTEC Rules of Procedure
    • Adoption of the BIMSTEC Maritime Cooperation Agreement (BMCA)
    • Launching of BIMSTEC Bangkok Vision 2030

Bangladesh is going to take over the chairmanship of BIMSTEC from Thailand once the 6th Summit is over.

  • Importance for India:
    • BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia but also encompasses the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
    • India sees BIMSTEC as a natural platform to prioritize its foreign policy objectives of "Neighborhood First" and "Act East."
      • The significance of BIMSTEC was highlighted when some of its member countries supported India's call for a boycott of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)summit in Islamabad, leading to its postponement.
      • India claimed victory in isolating Pakistan through this move.
  • Crucial Against Assertive China:
    • The Bay of Bengal is crucial for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.
      • As China has undertaken a massive drive to finance and build infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in almost all BIMSTEC countries, except Bhutan and India, BIMSTEC is a new battleground in the India-China battle for dominance.
    • BIMSTEC can allow India to push a constructive agenda to counter Chinese investments, and instead follow best practices for connectivity projects based on recognised international norms.
      • The Chinese projects are widely seen as violating these norms.
  • Preserve Peace and Freedom of Navigation:
    • The Bay of Bengal can be showcased as open and peaceful, contrasting it with China’s behavior in the South China Sea.
    • It can develop codes of conduct that preserve freedom of navigation and apply existing law of the seas regionally.
    • Moreover, BIMSTEC can stem the region’s creeping militarisation by instituting, for instance, a Bay of Bengal Zone of Peace that seeks to limit any bellicose behavior of extraregional power.

SAARC

BIMSTEC

1. A regional organisation looking into South Asia

2. Established in 1985 during the cold war era.

3. Member countries suffer for mistrust and suspicion.

4. Suffers from regional politics.

5. Asymmetric power balance.

6. Intra-regional trade only 5 percent.

1. Interregional organisation connecting South Asia and South East Asia.

2. Established in 1997 in the post-Cold War.

3. Members maintain reasonably friendly relations.

4. Core objective is the improvement of economic cooperation among countries.

5. Balancing of power with the presence of Thailand and India on the bloc.

6. Intra-regional trade has increased around 6 precent in a decade.

Source:


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