BIMSTEC: Full Form, Countries, Headquarters, Significance of BIMSTEC UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

BIMSTEC, founded in 1997, comprises 7 countries, five from South Asia and two from Southeast Asia. The BIMSTEC Full Form stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. It is an organization formed with a vision to increase cooperation in development in the countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal. The fifth summit of BIMSTEC was held in Colombo on March 30, 2022. The 5th virtual BIMSTEC summit theme was “Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies, Healthy People”.

BIMSTEC Headquarters is located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The grouping includes all the major countries of South Asia except Maldives, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The article covers all the necessary information from the UPSC Exam point of view. Students should go through topics such as the history, objectives, BIMSTEC countries, why BIMSTEC is preferred over SAARC, etc.


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.

About BIMSTEC Descriptions
BIMSTEC Full Form Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
BIMSTEC Countries Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal
BIMSTEC Headquarters Dhaka, Bangladesh
BIMSTEC Summit 2022 Sri Lanka presided over the meeting, which was held virtually
BIMSTEC Day 2022 May 31, 2021 (24th BIMSTEC Day)

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 BIMSTEC Full Form is the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

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).

BIMSTEC Headquarter

The BIMSTEC headquarter is located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A quarter of the world’s population lives in BIMSTEC nations. The BIMSTEC alliance strengthens ties between the seven nations and serves as a link between South Asia and South-East Asia.

BIMSTEC Countries

BIMSTEC was established on the 6th of June 1997 after the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. The BIMSTEC Countries comprise of 7 countriesBangladesh, 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 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 Objectives

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 by citing that the region is one of the leading agricultural areas of the world.
  • Promote tourism and transport within the region to enhance connectivity and communication.

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 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.

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 provided 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 has 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 failed the 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 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.


The article will prove helpful in covering the International Relations of the Polity section in the UPSC Syllabus. For Prelims, questions pertaining to BIMSTEC can be asked from the Current Affairs perspective. For UPSC Mains, candidates must prepare the topic concerning SAARC and its relevance.


To practice more about BIMSTEC, it is advised that the aspirants should refer to the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to be well aware of the prospective questions that can be asked from the topic.

Question: Which of the following is not a member of the multilateral cooperation group BIMSTEC? – A) Nepal, B) Bhutan, C) China, and D) Thailand

Answer:  Option (C) China

Question: With reference to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), consider the following statements: 1) It is a sub-regional organization that came into being from the Bangkok Declaration. 2) 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: 1 only

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