Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization aiming for long-term vision and priorities for cooperation. Examine how BIMSTEC has been significant for India in contemporary politics. Also mention the challenges with BIMSTEC.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi – Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States around the Bay of Bengal region. BIMSTEC constitutes a unique link between South and South-East Asia with five Members from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two from South-East Asia (Myanmar and Thailand).
Significance of BIMSTEC
- Having sub regional grouping of South Asia in the BIMSTEC provides an opportunity for India to integrate South Asia without Pakistan.
- It acts as a bridge between south asia and southeast asia
- A successful BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) can be instrumental in developing India’s North Eastern region as a commercial and business hub for Southeast Asia.
- BIMSTEC region has huge untapped reserve of natural gas which will help future power supply
Challenges with BIMSTEC
- The BIMSTEC region is marred by poor road and rail connectivity, insufficient last-mile links and cumbersome customs and clearance procedures which hamper trade.
- It has been unable to adequately contribute to the development of the organisation, and its negligible budget affects its capacity to perform a basic convening function.
- It adopted a framework to negotiate an FTA in 2004 and covered the following: (i) tariff concessions on trade in goods; (ii) Customs cooperation; (iii) trade in services; (iv) investment cooperation; and (v) dispute settlement. However, little progress was achieved in this regard.
- This is evident from Nepal and Thailand not participating in the first BIMSTEC anti-terror military exercise conducted at Pune in India in 2018. The proximate reason for the non-participation of these countries was their reluctance to convey the impression to China that BIMSTEC might evolve into an anti-China military forum.
It should focus less on geo-politics and more on common regional concerns of economic and social development. Empower Its secretariat with greater financial resources enabling it to proactively drive the organization’s agenda.
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