What is BIMSTEC?
BIMSTEC is an alliance of the countries adjacent to the Bay of Bengal. This organization was formed with the idea of cooperation in multiple sectors, including growth in development, energy, technology, tourism, fisheries, transport, communication, environmental and disaster management, agriculture, cultural cooperation, etc in all the countries within the region. BIMSTEC was established on the 6th of June 1997 after the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. The headquarter is located in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The BIMSTEC Countries comprises of 7 nations- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal. Initially, BIMSTEC was known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation). The current Secretary-General of BIMSTEC is Ambassador Tenzin Lekphell from Bhutan.
The Bangkok Declaration established BIMSTEC, a sub-regional organization, on 6th June 1997. 'BIST-EC' was the first abbreviation for the economic bloc, which was founded with Economic Cooperation from four member states (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand). During a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed 'BIMST-EC' after Myanmar was included on 22nd December 1997. The organization's name was modified to BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) after Nepal and Bhutan were included at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand).
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) became a partner in the "BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study" (BTILS) in 2005, and it was completed in 2014. BIMSTEC serves as a link between South and Southeast Asia, strengthening ties between the two regions.
BIMSTEC Full Form
Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal
BIMSTEC Summit 2022
Sri Lanka presided over the meeting, which was held virtually
BIMSTEC Day 2022
May 31, 2021 (24th BIMSTEC Day)
BIMSTEC is one of the most significant organizations and one of its kind in terms of its member nations based on their geographical locations. All the BIMSTEC Members are adjacent to the ocean Bay of Bengal (except for Nepal and Bhutan) and this reason encourages its members to efficiently cooperate among themselves to achieve the following objectives-
- Bringing the nations of the Bay of Bengal region within the ambit of unity and development.
- Maintain peace, harmony, and cooperation in the region.
- Increase cooperation in multiple sectors within the countries to achieve economic development and prosperity.
- To increase the cultural unity among the members as the region upholds a rich cultural heritage.
- Enhance agricultural cooperation citing the fact that the region is one of the leading agricultural areas of the world.
- Promote tourism and transport within the region so that connectivity and communication get are enhanced.
Principles of BIMSTEC
BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization, unlike many other regional groups. Building such an alliance was to achieve shared and accelerated growth by partnering in numerous areas of mutual interest, limiting globalization's consequences, and utilizing regional resources and geographic advantages. The BIMSTEC has been established based on certain principles, some of which are explained down under-
- To maintain territorial integrity among all the member nations.
- To sustain the equality of sovereignty of its members.
- To support the policy of non-interference in the internal matters of its members.
- To nurture the feeling of mutual cooperation.
- To maintain peace and harmony in the whole region.
- To achieve political independence in terms of the individuality of the members.
In late 1997, BIMSTEC began with six sectors for sectoral cooperation, including trade, technology, energy, transportation, tourism, and fisheries. In 2008, agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change were included as new sectors.
Importance of BIMSTEC for India
BIMSTEC, as discussed above, is one of the most significant organizations in the South Asian region due to its connectivity between two different sub-regions. BIMSTEC acts as a bridge between the South Asian and South-East Asian regions, as Myanmar and Thailand are the South-East Asian countries apart from the rest of the other members. BIMSTEC plays an important role in the economic development of the members associated with it by nurturing support in the fields of trade, investment, fisheries, technology, energy, cultural development, agricultural development, transport, communication, health, tourism, etc.
As India is the largest economy among all the members of BIMSTEC, it holds great importance. For India, BIMSTEC is a natural platform to fulfill our key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East'. As China mounts assertive activities in the Bay of Bengal region, with increased submarine movement and ship visits in the Indian Ocean, it is in India’s interest to consolidate its internal engagement among the BIMSTEC countries.
BIMSTEC also provides an alternative platform to SAARC after the differences between India and Pakistan gained momentum.
Challenges for BIMSTEC
Although BIMSTEC possesses a huge amount of significance in the inclusive growth of the region yet, it had not gained the desired success, and the organization has to face several challenges like
- The members have been ignorant of BIMSTEC compared to other regional cooperative organizations like SAARC.
- Few of the member nations are facing territorial conflicts resulting which their cooperation in this organization has been minimized.
- The BIMSTEC organization covers as many as 14 areas of cooperation which is a large number hence commitment in all the areas is very difficult.
- BIMSTEC summits were supposed to be held once every 2 years, but only 5 meetings of this organization took place, which shows the ignorance of its members.
- The lack of free trade agreement (FTA) in this organization has resulted in the failure of attention of the member nations.
BIMSTEC: An Alternative to SAARC
BIMSTEC provides a new platform for India to engage with its neighboring countries after SAARC became dysfunctional due to the differences between India and Pakistan. BIMSTEC provides an alternative to SAARC for the following reasons:
- Regional cooperation under the umbrella of SAARC has become difficult, providing for BIMSTEC to be more visible. Major projects launched by India with the help of SAARC were halted due to objections from Pakistan.
- BIMSTEC, as a trade bloc, provides for economic vistas as it has countries with the fastest-growing economies in the world. The organization has a greater trade potential as the BIMSTEC member countries reached six percent trade potential in just a decade, with SAARC at just five percent.
- BIMSTEC countries share a very cordial relationship with each other, which is not the case with the SAARC nations.
- BIMSTEC provides an alternative to SAARC and serves two purposes for India- a friendly linkage between South and Southeast Asian countries and a common regional platform with South Asia, except Pakistan.
BIMSTEC UPSC Prelims Sample Question
Question: Which of the following is not a member of the multilateral cooperation group BIMSTEC?
Answer: Option C
Question: With reference to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), consider the following statements:
It is a sub-regional organization that came into being from Bangkok Declaration.
All Bay of Bengal littoral countries are part of the BIMSTEC.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A) 1 only
B) 2 only
C) Both 1 and 2
D) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: Option A
BIMSTEC is an important organization covered under the UPSC Syllabus of UPSC Exam. For UPSC Prelims, it can be asked from the Current Affairs perspective, and for UPSC Mains, it relates to the GS Paper 2. To practice more about BIMSTEC, it is advised that the aspirants should practice the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to understand the UPSC Exam Pattern and be well aware of the prospective questions that can be asked from the topic.
BIMSTEC UPSC Notes
BIMSTEC is an important topic for the UPSC Exam, which is mostly asked in Prelims and Mains. Though the approach differs for both stages, the topic holds great importance. It is very much necessary for an aspirant to be well prepared with the topic of BIMSTEC.