The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional multilateral organisation. 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. Out of the 7 members, five are from South Asia including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and two from Southeast Asia Myanmar and Thailand.
Principles of BIMSTEC:
- 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.
- 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.
Significance for India:
It is another platform for coordination and cooperation among the neighbours. Also it lets India focus on to policies such as
- Neighbourhood First – primacy to the country’s immediate periphery;
- Act East – connect India with Southeast Asia; and
- Economic development of India’s north-eastern states – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
In 2017, the BIMSTEC celebrated their 20th anniversary. Although for years this organisation has been on low profile but in the future could be a major source of integration between South and South East Asia.
- Security community
- Economic Market
- People to people contact
For the future:
- BIMSTEC countries need to encourage trade in the region by signing the BIMSTEC free trade agreement (FTA) in goods and services.
- India must take a lead role because BIMSTEC stands at the centre of its ‘Neighbourhood first’ and ‘Act East’ Policy, its major foreign policy priorities. India’s involvement in the grouping holds promise to foster the regional integration process.
- Connectivity — particularly digital connectivity and backend infrastructure — needs to be improved across all BIMSTEC countries.
- To leverage the opportunities in the region, a strong regional cooperation mechanism is necessary.
- The region has potential to become a hub of economic activities and this can be used for the advantages
- This organisation could come together to counter Chinese influence in the region and make their relations much stronger than before
As the tension is growing in the region there is a need for regional order. As there are arguments for this organisation replacing SAARC and its growing importance due to Indo-Pacific region, it becomes highly important to enhance their growth and cooperation among the members and also in the region.