Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: ”Why BIMSTEC Matters?”
GS 2: Important International Institutions, Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests, Regional Groupings, India and its Neighbourhood
- India recently participated in the 5th BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit hosted in virtual mode by Sri Lanka, the current chair of BIMSTEC.
What was the theme this year?
- The Summit’s theme “Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies, Healthy People” captures the main current priorities of member states, and the efforts by BIMSTEC to develop cooperation activities that support member states’ programmes to deal with the economic and development consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The main outcome of the Summit was the adoption and signing of the BIMSTEC Charter, which formalizes the grouping into an organization made up of member states that are littoral to, and dependent upon, the Bay of Bengal.
- 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 Cooperation), the organisation is now known as BIMSTEC and comprises seven Member States with the admission of Myanmar on 22 December 1997, and Bhutan and Nepal in February 2004.
- 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 fifth summit in Colombo is a crucial marker in this regard as leaders of the seven members adopted the Bimstec Charter that defines its goals and long-term vision.
- This is a major achievement as it establishes the institutional architecture for the grouping.
- This is indeed a foundation for further deepening and broadening of cooperation within the regional grouping.
Importance of BIMSTEC
- With 21.7 per cent of the world’s population and a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion, BIMSTEC has emerged as an influential engine of economic growth.
- Recent developments in Europe have raised question marks over the stability of the international order. In this context, it has become important to make BIMSTEC regional cooperation more active.
- BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate is important for cooperation in disaster management, especially disaster risk reduction.
- Convention to combat terrorism has become active since last year which is very important for the security of respective member countries.
BIMSTEC & India
- For India, BIMSTEC is a compelling idea. Owing to the failures of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation—largely due to India’s problems with Pakistan—and the lengthening shadow of China’s influence in the region, Bimstec holds considerable promise as a ‘SAARC minus Pakistan’, with Myanmar and Thailand thrown in for good measure.
- Bimstec, in fact, is a bridge between South and Southeast Asia. India is the dominant economy within this grouping with a GDP of $3 trillion and population of 1.4 billion. Bimstec’s combined GDP is $4 trillion, or 4% of global GDP in 2021, and it has 22 % of the world’s population.
- However, India’s standard of living expressed in terms of income per head of the population is only $2,116 in 2021 and is much lower than that of member countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
- With such fundamentals, closer integration of the Bay of Bengal community promises to be beneficial for member nations.
With our region facing challenges of health and economic security, the need of the hour is unity and cooperation. Today is the time to make the Bay of Bengal bridge of connectivity, the bridge of prosperity, and the bridge of security.