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The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) celebrated its 25th anniversary on June 6 2022.
How BIMSTEC differ from other regional groupings
Because it is a sector-driven organisation, BIMSTEC differs from other regional organisations such as SAARC or ASEAN. Members distribute areas of cooperation among themselves, such as commerce, energy, transportation, fishing, security, culture, and tourism. Unlike the SAARC, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation has continued to organise summits and meetings of Foreign Ministers beyond 2014. BIMSTEC has hosted five conferences so far, but the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has only convened one since its inception in 1997. It has now decided to hold regular summits every two years.
Revival after 2016
Following the Uri attack (on an Indian military base) in October 2016, India increased its efforts to promote BIMSTEC. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation members have approved India’s plan to boycott the SAARC conference in Islamabad in November 2016. Consequently, the SAARC summit has been postponed indefinitely, and India has switched its attention to other regional organisations such as BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
BIMSTEC 5th summit
- The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation grouping just conducted its fifth summit on March 30, 2022, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- The theme of the fifth summit is “Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies, and Healthy People.” This reflects the current priorities of the member states and the efforts of BIMSTEC to help them deal with the economic and development consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The main outcome of the fifth summit was the adoption and signing of the BIMSTEC Charter, which formalises the grouping into an organisation comprised of member states that are coastal and dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
- The fifth summit also saw significant progress in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation connectivity agenda, with leaders adopting the “Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” which lays out a framework for future connectivity-related activities in the region.
What are the key highlights of the BIMSTEC 5th summit?
- The signing of the BIMSTEC Charter was the summit’s key accomplishment. The members are expected to convene once every two years under this charter.
- As a result of the charter, It now has an international personality, an emblem, and a flag. It has a formally stated purpose and principles to which it will adhere.
- In keeping with the organisation’s evolution into a formal structure, member country leaders have agreed to divide the grouping‘s work into seven segments, with India leading the security pillar.
- The Master Plan for Transport Connectivity was announced at the summit, and it will serve as a framework for regional and domestic connectivity.
- India will contribute one million US dollars to the operational budget of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation secretariat.
What is BIMSTEC?
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation is a regional multilateral organization consisting of seven countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand. BIMSTEC was established in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration with the goal of developing trade, investment and cooperative relationships among its member countries. The organization has played an important role in the promotion of economic growth and poverty reduction in the region.
- Its members are located in the Bay of Bengal’s littoral and adjacent areas, forming a contiguous regional unity.
- Five of the seven members are from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Myanmar and Thailand are both from Southeast Asia.
- BIMSTEC connects not only South and Southeast Asia but also the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal ecologies.
- Its main goal is to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development, accelerate social progress, and promote regional collaboration on issues of mutual interest.
- The Bangkok Declaration established this sub-regional organisation in 1997.
- It was initially formed with four Member States under the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
- Following the inclusion of Myanmar, it was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ in 1997.
- With the addition of Nepal and Bhutan in 2004, the grouping’s name was changed to the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’.
This grouping have total of 7 Member nations given in the table below
BIMSTEC Working Bodies
- Ministerial Meeting
- BIMSTEC Summit
- BIMSTEC Working Group
- Senior Officials’ Meeting
- Business Forum & Economic Forum
Download Bimstec Countries Map
- June 1997: started in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration as BISTEC(Myanmar was not a member initially ).
- Dec 1997: Myanmar joined grouping and it became BIMSTEC.
- 2004: Nepal and Bhutan Joined.
Population Of Bimstec nations
- 1.5 Billion people i.e. approx. 22% of world’s population.
- 2.7 trillion dollars
What is the purpose of Bimstec
- It was formed as grouping to counter the side effects of Globalisation.
- How it planned to do so? By taking advantage of the geographical proximity between fastest growing economies in world, and utilising regional resources
Sectors of Cooperation
- Sectors of Cooperation (when it was formed): 6 sectors-trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries
- Expanded sector cooperation in 2008: 9 more sectors–agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change
17th Ministerial Meeting
- Held virtually –Apr 02, 2021, BIMSTEC provides the unique strength of connecting South and South-East Asia and it has steadily gained prominence in the Indian foreign policy.
BIMSTEC Conventions on Cooperation
Conventions which came into effect in March 2021
- Combating International Terrorism
- Transnational Organized Crime
- illicit Drug Trafficking
- BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters has been finalized for signing at the fifth BIMSTEC Summit
- Disaster management is also another important area of cooperation and collaboration among the member countries having similar geo-climatic conditions. BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate, being hosted in India, is fully functional with state of the art facilities to provide Disaster Early Warning.
Advantages of BIMSTEC for INDIA
Majorly India can benefit in following areas:
1.Neighborhood First and Act East policy of India:
- India launched its look East policy in the year 1991 and it got evolved into Act East policy in the year 2014, the diplomatic policy main aim is to promote strategic, cultural and economic relation with the Asia and the Pacific region.
- Presence of these Asian countries in this grouping is a opportunity for India to boost its act East policy aims.
- Similarly India’s neighbourhood first policy focuses on strengthening ties with immediate neighbours of India, presence of our neighbouring nation in this grouping is also an opportunity to boost our neighbourhood first policy aims.
2.Strait of Malacca
- Strait of Malacca connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean
- Nearly one quarter of world’s traded goods transit through the strait of Malacca
- Geographically strait of Malacca surrounded by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore
- The Bay of Bengal and Strait of Malacca are directly connected, so this grouping can have direct impact on the trade passing through strait of Malacca
- The strait of Malacca also have strategic importance as most of the oil demand of China is fulfilled by import from middle East countries and and nearly all these ships carrying oil passes through the strait of Malacca.
- India have a massive coastline of 7500 km and various important cities and towns are located on the coastline.
- Sagarmala project came into being to start a wave of port led development across India’s coastline. Ports will be developed connected with inland highways, railroads and other necessary infrastructure.
- This will all create a booming economy in Indian coastal states and presence of growing market economies in the neighbourhood in the form of this grouping will surely be fruitful for India.
In conclusion, the BIMSTEC region has come a long way since its inception in 1997. The organisation has made great strides in terms of cooperation and connectivity and looks poised to continue this trajectory in the years to come. We would like to see all stakeholders to continue to support the BIMSTEC process and work together towards the common goal of regional integration and development.
Checkout Official BIMSTEC website for more details: