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

  • Published
    7th Jun, 2022

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).

Significance of BIMSTEC for India

  • Mutual Development: BIMSTEC provides a new platform for India to engage with its neighbours with the SAARC becoming dysfunctional. BIMSTEC allows India to pursue three core policies- Neighbourhood First, Act East, and Economic development of India’s north-eastern states.
  • Countering China: It allows India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its One Belt and One Road Initiative.
  • Security of Indo-Pacific: It is of utmost significance to India as it is a major support in implementing its Act East Policy and the development of its ambitious ‘Sagar Mala’ project.

Key achievements of BIMSTEC

  • Withstanding conflicts: The BIMSTEC region witnessed the influx of over a million Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh; the coup in Myanmar that led to its virtual boycott by a large segment of the international community; and the grave political and economic crisis afflicting Sri Lanka.
  • Security Cooperation: It has registered progress in combating terrorism, forging security cooperation, and creating mechanisms and practices for the better management of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • Economic Cooperation: It has prioritised the seven sectors of cooperation with each member-state serving as the lead country for the assigned sector. MoUs, agreements and legal instruments provide for developing functional cooperation in select areas such as agriculture, trade, sustainable development and connectivity.
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