Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)”. The topic “Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)” has relevance in the “International Relations” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

BIMSTEC, its members and sectors 

For Mains:

GS2: Important International Institutions and their mandate

Why in the news?

The inaugural Foreign Ministers’ meeting of BIMSTEC commenced in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 17, 2023 with the presence of India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar.


Evolution of BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC, or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, is a regional organization that was founded on June 6, 1997, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration.
  • Originally known as BIST-EC, it was renamed BIMSTEC and currently consists of seven Member States. Myanmar joined on 22nd December 1997, followed by Bhutan and Nepal in February 2004.
  • In 2014, during the Third BIMSTEC Summit, it was decided to establish the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which provided a formal framework for enhancing cooperation among member states.
  • The BIMSTEC Charter was signed and adopted during the Fifth BIMSTEC Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 30th March 2022.

Aim : to combat the effects of globalisation by promoting regional development through collaboration and the use of regional resources and geographic advantages.

Members of BIMSTEC: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand

Secretariat: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Sector Driven Group

  • Initially, BIMSTEC, a sector-focused regional grouping, prioritized six sectors in 1997: trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism, and fisheries. 
  • Over time, the cooperation expanded in 2008 to include additional sectors such as agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change. 
  • In 2021, the sectors and sub-sectors were rationalised and reorganised, with each member state leading specific areas of cooperation.
Country Main Sector Sub-sectors
Bangladesh Trade, Investment, and Development Blue Economy
Bhutan Environment & Climate Change Mountain Economy
India Security Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Disaster Management, Energy
Myanmar Agriculture and Food Security Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock
Nepal People-to-People Contact Culture, Tourism, Poverty Alleviation, People-to-People Contact (forums of think tanks, media etc.)
Sri Lanka Science, Technology & Innovation Technology, Health, Human Resource Development
Thailand Connectivity


Why is BIMSTEC seen as a more promising regional organisation than SAARC?

  • Economic potential: BIMSTEC has a combined GDP of over US$2 trillion, which is larger than the GDP of SAARC. This means that BIMSTEC has a greater potential for economic cooperation.
  • Geostrategic location: BIMSTEC countries are located in a strategically important region, at the intersection of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. This gives BIMSTEC a greater potential for regional cooperation and connectivity.
  • Political will: The member countries of BIMSTEC have a stronger political will to cooperate than the member countries of SAARC. This is due in part to the fact that BIMSTEC countries have a shared interest in countering the influence of China in the region.
  • Recent progress: BIMSTEC has made more progress in recent years than SAARC. For example, BIMSTEC has signed a framework agreement on security cooperation as well as BIMSTEC Charter.


BIMSTEC vs SAARC: At a Glance

Type of organization Regional Interregional
Region South Asia South Asia and Southeast Asia
Year established 1985 1997
Motivation for establishment Cold War era Post-Cold War
Member countries Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Political relations Mistrust and suspicion Reasonably friendly
Economic relations Low intra-regional trade Increasing intra-regional trade
Security relations Tense Improving
Core objective Economic cooperation Economic and technical cooperation
Strengths Long history, cultural ties Strong economic potential, strategic location
Weaknesses Political tensions, mistrust Asymmetric power balance, lack of progress
Future prospects Potential for improvement Promising organisation


BIMSTEC and assertive China

Promoting an Alternative to Chinese Investments

  • China’s extensive financing and infrastructure development initiatives in South and Southeast Asia under the Belt and Road Initiative have reached all BIMSTEC countries except Bhutan and India. 
  • Consequently, BIMSTEC has emerged as a new battleground for India and China to assert dominance.

Countering Chinese Investments through BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC presents India with an opportunity to counter Chinese investments by advocating for connectivity projects aligned with recognized international norms and best practices. 
  • Chinese projects have been widely criticised for disregarding these norms and engaging in debt-trap diplomacy. 

Showcasing the Bay of Bengal as an Open and Peaceful Region

  • BIMSTEC can serve as a platform to showcase the Bay of Bengal as an open and peaceful region, setting it apart from China’s behavior in the South China Sea. 
  • Through BIMSTEC, codes of conduct can be developed to preserve freedom of navigation and ensure adherence to existing regional maritime laws.

Curbing the Escalation of Military Presence

  • BIMSTEC has the potential to reduce the growing military presence in the region by establishing a Bay of Bengal Peace Zone.
  • The objective would be to restrict aggressive actions by external powers and foster a more peaceful and stable environment.

Bay of Bengal has become an arena where India and China vie for influence and assert their respective agendas. BIMSTEC offers India a platform to counter Chinese investments, emphasize the importance of international norms, promote regional peace in the Bay of Bengal, and limit the escalation of military activities in the area.



Image Credits: TOI

plutus ias current affairs eng med 21th July 2023


Q1. With reference Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), consider the following statements: 

  1. BIMSTEC is a regional organisation established in 1997 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. 
  2. BIMSTEC has members only from South Asia.
  3. Trade integration in SAARC is more deepened than in BIMSTEC. 

Which of the statements given above is/are NOT correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (b) 


Q2. Consider the following:

  • Thailand 
  • Bangladesh 
  • Myanmar 
  • Sri Lanka 
  • Indonesia 

How many of the abovementioned countries are both part of BIMSTEC and ASEAN groups?

(a) Only One

(b) Only Two 

(c) Only Four 

(d) All Five

Answer: (b)


Q3. Do you think that BIMSTEC is a parallel organisation like the SAARC ? What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two ? How are Indian foreign policy objectives realized by forming this new organisation ? (2022)

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