A ‘silver’ moment to propel a Bay of Bengal dream

A ‘silver’ moment to propel a Bay of Bengal dream

A ‘silver’ moment to propel a Bay of Bengal dream – Today Current Affairs


June 6 marked the completion of 25 years since the 1997 Bangkok Declaration launched a modest grouping (of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand), with the acronym, BIST-EC. Three countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar) joined it later to make it the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

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The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic
Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization that was established on 06
June 1997 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration.
• Initially known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic
• With Myanmar joining on 22 December 1997, the group was renamed
BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic
Cooperation), and with the admission of Nepal and Bhutan during the 6th
Ministerial Meeting in Thailand in July 2004, the grouping was renamed
during the First Summit in Bangkok on 31 July 2004 as the Bay of Bengal
Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
• BIMSTEC’s institutional evolution has been gradual. Following a decision
at the Third BIMSTEC Summit in 2014, the BIMSTEC Secretariat was
established in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in that same year, providing an
institutionalized framework for deepening and enhancing cooperation.

The purposes of BIMSTEC : The Hindu Analysis

Being a sector-driven grouping, cooperation within BIMSTEC had initially
focused on six sectors in 1997 (trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism,
and fisheries) and expanded in 2008 to incorporate agriculture, public health,
poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change.
Subsequently, following steps to rationalize and reorganize sectors and subsectors, cooperation was reorganized in 2021 under the following sectors
and sub-sectors led by the respective Member States:
➢ Bangladesh: Trade, Investment and Development
➢ Bhutan: Environment & Climate Change
➢ India: Security (Sub-sectors: Counter-Terrorism and Transnational
Crime, Disaster Management, Energy)
➢ Myanmar: Agriculture and Food Security (Sub-sectors: Agriculture,
Fisheries & Livestock)
➢ Nepal: People-to-People Contact (Sub-sectors: Culture, Tourism,
People-to-People Contact
➢ Sri Lanka: Science, Technology & Innovation (Sri Lanka) (Sub-sectors:
Technology, Health, Human Resource Development)
➢ Thailand: Connectivity

BIMSTEC Principles : The Hindu Analysis

• Cooperation within the BIMSTEC will be based on respect for the principle
of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, noninterference in internal affairs, non-aggression, peaceful co-existence,
mutual respect and mutual benefit.
• Cooperation within the BIMSTEC will be complementary to and not be a
substitute for bilateral, sub-regional, regional or multilateral cooperation
involving the Member States.

Working Mechanism : The Hindu Analysis

National Focal Points (NFP) established within the Ministries of External/
Foreign Affairs/ Foreign Relations of each Member State serves as the points of
contact for all BIMSTEC related communications and coordination between the
BIMSTEC Secretariat and Member States.

BIMSTEC is a four-tiered organization : The Hindu Analysis

  • The Summit comprising the Heads of State or Government of the Member
  • The Ministerial Meeting comprising the Ministers dealing with foreign
    relations of the Member States
  • The Senior Officials’ Meeting consisting of the Foreign Secretaries/
    Secretaries/ appropriate Senior officials nominated by the BIMSTEC Member
  • The BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee (BPCW) comprising senior
    officials of the respective National Focal Points.

Significance of BIMSTEC : The Hindu Analysis

• The BIMSTEC region hosts 22% of the world population or 1.68 billion
people; and the member states have a combined GDP of US$3.697
trillion/per year.
• For India, BIMSTEC aligns with its ‘Act East’ policy for greater regional
cooperation in southeast Asia. It could also be seen as aligning with India’s
larger goal to gain trade and security prominence in the Indian Ocean
region and to cater to the concept of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ region, a major
focus of Quad countries.
• A 2021 research series of the Observer Research Foundation indicates
what’s in it for other member countries to be a part of a grouping focused
in the Bay of Bengal. It says that for Bangladesh, BIMSTEC might be a
platform to strengthen its much-needed economic development, while
Sri Lanka sees the goal of becoming a hub for shipment in the Indo-Pacific
region. For smaller members Nepal and Bhutan — the two landlocked,
mountainous states — the grouping serves as a pass to the sea. Lastly, for
Myanmar and Thailand, it could be seen as a way to reduce overdependence on China and as an opening to a huge consumer market for
its commodities.
• In this context, India also made efforts to enhance the pace of BIMSTEC’s
progress in recent years. The BIMSTEC Energy Centre was set up in
Bengaluru, along with the BIMSTEC Business Council, a forum for business
organizations to promote regional trade. It aims to create free-trade and
power grid interconnectivity agreements, and a masterplan for transport
connectivity in the Bay of Bengal region.

Today Current Affairs


• The first and major challenge, according to foreign policy researchers is a
lack of efficiency and “sluggish” pace of BIMSTEC’s progress. The
inconsistency in holding policy making and operational meetings was
mentioned earlier. BIMSTEC secretariat also suffers from inadequate
financial and manpower assistance for its operational activities. Another
criticism is India’s selective interest in BIMSTEC each time SAARC is
hamstrung due to Pakistan.
• In recent years, the progress of BIMSTEC has also been underscored by
Bangladesh-Myanmar relations over the Rohingya refugee crisis, the
India-Nepal border issue, and most recently, the political situation in
Myanmar after the military junta took over in February last year. This
year’s Summit also drew attention due to the participation of Myanmar’s
Foreign Minister as the country under military rule is seen as a leading
violator of human rights in the world.

While all member-states are equal, three have a special responsibility:
Bangladesh as the host of the BIMSTEC Secretariat; Thailand as the
representative of Southeast Asia; and India as the largest state in South Asia.
This trio must be engine to pull the BIMSTEC train with imagination and


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