Aims and functions of the BIMSTEC in handling challenges in the Bay of Bengal region
- Amid the financial crisis of 1997, leading Southeast Asian and South Asian nations came together to form the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
- The underlying factor behind the grouping was that if connected together they could deal with the challenges of pursuing free market economies in the limits imposed by local political and economic factors.
- In its 25th year, and at its fifth summit held in hybrid format in Colombo, the organisation adopted a charter which aims at providing greater coordination among the seven member nations.
Need to revitalise the multilateral grouping
- For long, BIMSTEC existed as a platform for policy dialogue
- But the global churning over sanctions on Russia after the war in Ukraine appears to have contributed towards fine tuning the focus of the grouping
- The new charter comes at a time when the need for an alternative regional-global organisation is increasingly being felt because of the moribund nature of SAARC which has not met since November 2014.
BIMSTEC's connectivity vision
- BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity: it seeks to connect several major transport projects in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand and establish a shipping network across the Bay of Bengal that will benefit the littoral states as well as the Bay of Bengal dependent states like Nepal and Bhutan.
- BBIN connectivity project: it involves Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal
- It is expected to be merged with the port and infrastructure projects like the Sittwe port of Myanmar and Payra port of Bangladesh and Colombo of Sri Lanka.
Free Trade Agreement plan
- A framework agreement for a Free Trade Agreement among the members of BIMSTEC was signed in 2004, and has been revived again.
- The idea is to create stronger trade relations among players in the Bay of Bengal region
- But negotiations on finalising legal instruments for coastal shipping, tying up road transport and other issues will take time to be sorted out.
Significance of Security and India’s role
- The Bay of Bengal has enormous significance from the security point of view.
- It borders the Strait of Malacca which is the main energy lane for the eastern and Southeast Asian nations.
- That apart, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have often suffered from terrorism.
- The security relevance of BIMSTEC, therefore, has been growing especially after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019.
- India will steer the security pillar of BIMSTEC and is expected to coordinate region wide security cooperation on jointly agreed issues.
- The quest for economic growth and the development of the BIMSTEC region can be achieved with single-minded focus and cooperation among the member countries. In this endeavour, India has a key role in accelerating regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework and in making it vibrant, stronger and result-oriented.
- Strait of Malacca
- Bay of Bengal
Q Discuss the relevance of BIMSTEC amid the changing global scenario and role of India in accelerating regional cooperation.