What is BIMSTEC? History and current status of BIMSTEC

by Ramesh pokhrel
BIMSTEC

The Bay of Bengal Initiative And Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation – BIMSTEC was formed through the Bangkok Declaration on June 6, 1997, and BIMSTEC headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

What is BIMSTEC?

  • Bay of Bengal Initiative and Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a multilateral organization in the Asia region.
  • BIMSTEC members are Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Its headquarter is located in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • Five of the seven BIMSTEC countries (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal) are from South Asia and the other two (Myanmar and Thailand) are from South-East Asia.
  • Thus, it acts as a connecting link between South Asia and South-East Asia.
  • The organization has membership from all the major countries of South Asia except Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Most of the BIMSTEC members are located in and around the Bay of Bengal Sea littoral and thus enhance regional cooperation and strength.
  • The countries bordering the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal are also connected through the organization.

Historical Background of BIMSTEC

  • Initially, in 1997, the organization was formed to enhance economic cooperation and development in an integrated manner among the four countries of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
  • It was formed through the Bangkok Declaration in 1997 and was named ‘BIST-EC’, which stands for ‘Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation’.
  • Then, in late 1997, the name was changed to ‘BIMS-EC’ when Myanmar was admitted to the organization.
  • Finally, in 2004, the countries of Nepal and Bhutan were also included in the organization and it was renamed as Bay of Bengal Initiative and Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
  • In 2016, the organization’s ‘Leader’s Retreat’ was held, followed by an ‘Outreach Summit’ in association with BRICS leaders in Goa, October 2016.
  • Both of these events attracted a large amount of international attention.
  • Also, leaders of BIMSTEC member states were invited as guests of honor to the second swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  May 2019.
  • Shortly afterwards, India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar said that India sees in BIMSTEC an amalgamation of ‘energy, mindset and potential’.

Objectives of BIMSTEC

  • To create an environment for ensuring rapid economic growth in South Asian and South-East Asian countries.
  • To promote an environment of equality and participation in the region.
  • To ensure dynamic and mutual cooperation, especially in areas that are of common interest to the member states.
  • To create an environment for ensuring rapid economic growth in South Asian and South-East Asian countries.

Recent Developments occurred in BIMSTEC

  • The 24th BIMSTEC Day was celebrated on May 31, 2021.

The 17th ministerial meeting of the organization was held in virtual mode on April 1, 2021, and was chaired by Sri Lanka and attended by all member states.

  • Approved this meeting:

  • Master Plan for Transport Connectivity
  • Promoted the use of the Weather and Climate Center being developed in India with fully functional state-of-the-art facilities to provide early warning for major disasters.
  • Other member states of the organization have pledged to support a startup conclave in January 2021, hold a disaster management exercise in Puri, Odisha in February 2020, and organize a conference in February 2020 on ‘Combating Drug Trafficking’ Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the efforts of
  • Also, all member states welcomed the proposal to hold the 5th summit of the organization in Sri Lanka in the coming months.

 Areas of Cooperation of BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC has 14 main areas of cooperation.
  • These include trade and investment, trade and communications, energy, tourism, technology, fisheries, agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, terrorism and transnational crime, environment and disaster management, people-to-people contacts, cultural cooperation and climate change
  • Each member country leads in at least one or more of these areas.
  • India leads the way in the areas of terrorism, telecommunications, transport and international crime.

Principles of BIMSTEC

  • Ensuring sovereign equality.
  • Promotion of territorial integrity.
  • Ensuring political freedom.
  • To ensure non-interference in internal affairs.
  • Strengthening peaceful coexistence.
  • Promote mutual benefit.
  • To aid and not replace bilateral, regional and/or multilateral cooperation among member states.

Importance of BIMSTEC

Since SAARC has been largely ineffective due to differences between India and Pakistan, BIMSTEC provides an alternative mechanism for India to engage with its close neighbours.

  • It provides an opportunity for India to promote its three major policies:
  • Act East Policy – To connect India with South East Asia
  • Neighborhood First Policy – India’s Nearest Neighboring Countries give priority to
  • Economic Cooperation and Development in the North Eastern States of India – By creating a link between the North Eastern States and countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar through the Bay of Bengal region.
  • Helps India counter China’s growing influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • It helped integrate not only South Asia and South-East Asia, but also the regions of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • In addition, about 300 million Indian population, which is about 25% of India’s total population, lives in the four coastal states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal which are adjacent to the Bay of Bengal region.
  • Also, as China seeks to expand its assertiveness in the Bay of Bengal region by increasing its submarine presence and movement of ships in and around the Indian Ocean Region, it is important for India to establish its regional relations with BIMSTEC member states. Increasing engagement becomes very important.
  • The organization also helps India to enhance its ‘SAGARMALA’ initiative and ‘SAGAR’ policy (Security and Growth for All in the Region).
  • Recently, for the first time the BIMSTEC Conference on ‘Combating Drug Trafficking’ was held in New Delhi in February 2020.

National Security Chiefs Meeting of the Member States

  • India was the host of the first meeting of the national security chiefs of the member states of the organization held on March 21, 2017.
  • India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval represented India in this meeting.
  • In this meeting issues like common security threats faced by the member states were discussed.
  • Also, the importance of tackling traditional and non-traditional security threats to promote comprehensive human security in the Bay of Bengal region was discussed.
  • It was also reiterated that cooperation on security issues among member states is a prerequisite for achieving the objectives of the Organization.
  • Member states also discussed various ways in which maritime security can be enhanced, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • An agreement was finalized that the Bay of Bengal region would be recognized as a common security space and various joint measures would be taken for the same.
  • At the same time, the member states reiterated the urgent need to curb the spread of terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism.
  • These objectives can be achieved through proper coordination among the security organizations of the member states in the areas of capacity building, law enforcement etc.

SAARC VS. BIMSTEC

SAARC

  • What is this?

It is a regional organization focused on the South Asian region.

  • when was it founded

It was established in 1985.

  • The headquarters

    Its headquarter is in Kathmandu, Nepal.

  • Member countries

    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Afghanistan

BIMSTEC

  • What is this?

It is an inter-regional organization focused on the South Asian and South-East Asian region.

  • When was it founded

It was established in 1997.

  • The headquarters

    Its headquarter is in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

  • Member countries

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand,

Disaster Management Exercise (DMEX)

  • What is DMEX practice? , What is DMEX?

  • The 2nd edition of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Disaster Management exercise was held in Odisha, India from 11 February 2020 to 13 February 2020.
  • The DMEX exercise was inaugurated by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
  • The implementing agency for this exercise in India was the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
  • Whereas, the first disaster management exercise of the organization was held in Nepal in 2017.

 Objectives of DMEX Exercise

  • To enhance cooperation and coordination of various agencies of these member states at the time of events like cyclone, tsunami, flood, earthquake etc.
  • To enhance cooperation among various stakeholders belonging to member states at various level such as international, national, state, district and local levels.
  • To assess the efficiency of the existing measures adopted in case of emergencies caused by disasters.
  • Countries Participating in DMEX Exercise | Countries participating in DMEX Exercise
  • There were 80 delegates from 5 member states. More than 35 delegates from India alone participated. The following countries participated in the exercise:
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar
  • India

Various events conducted in DMEX exercise. Various events conducted in this exercise

  • Table Top Exercise (TTX): The delegates discussed best practices and plans to deal with earthquakes.
  • Field Training Exercise (FTX): The delegates discussed best practices and plans to deal with floods.
  • After Action Review (AAR): The urgency to enhance cooperation among the member states to fight the disaster was discussed in the AAR.

International Observer Agencies of DMEX

  • PRACTICE FREE
  • United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
  • International Center for the Study of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties (ICCROM)
  • International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG)
  • BIMSTEC Secretariat
  • National Supervisory Agencies of DMEX | National Observer Agencies of DMEX
  • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
  • Indian National Trust for Art A Indian Cultural Heritage (INTACH)
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
  • Animal Quarantine and Certification Scheme (AQCS)
  • Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC)
  • fire services
  • Citizen protection

Challenges of BIMSTEC

  • Ignored by member countries – Countries like Thailand and Myanmar pay more attention to ASEAN than BIMSTEC and countries like India often use this organization only as a substitute against SAARC.
  • BIMSTEC has a mandate to hold summits every two years and ministerial meetings every year, but in the last 20 years, only four summits have taken place till 2018, instead of the ten summits that would ideally have happened.
  • Since the focus areas of the organization are very wide such as public health, agriculture, connectivity etc., sometimes it becomes difficult to focus on each and every sector with equal level. Therefore, it is suggested that the focus areas of the organization should be narrowed down so that collaboration can be enhanced.
  • The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of BIMSTEC has not been finalized yet.
  • Bilateral issues are increasing among the member countries of the organization, which has reduced the strength of the organization. For example, Bangladesh is facing the issue of Rohingya refugees with India, border conflicts between India and Nepal and also between Myanmar and Thailand.
  • The formation of the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) initiative has further reduced the strength and potential of BIMSTEC.

 Solutions to challenges faced by BIMSTEC

  • In 2018, a report by the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry suggested that the member countries of the organization urgently needed to finalize a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) to promote intra-regional trade and commerce. Is.
  • This FTA should ideally also cover trade in services, goods and investment. It should also enhance regulatory harmonization and support policies that promote regional policy chains while reducing non-tariff barriers.
  • There is a need to strike a balance between security and economy among BIMSTEC member states.
  • There is a need to maintain a security environment along with promoting economic cooperation among the member states.
  • India can allay the fears and perceptions of member states by following the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ that BIMSTEC is an India-dominated bloc.
  • Since the Bay of Bengal region is a powerhouse of diverse cultures and untapped natural resources, there is a need for the member states to promote regional cooperation and utilize the available resources in the best and most efficient manner.

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