BIMSTEC is a natural platform for regional cooperation and India has been clearly signaling its renewed interest in this organisation. Explain the significance of BIMSTEC for India highlighting the issues preventing it from realizing its full potential.

BIMSTEC is a natural platform for regional cooperation and India has been clearly signaling its renewed interest in this organisation. Explain the significance of BIMSTEC for India highlighting the issues preventing it from realizing its full potential.
Approach:
  • Introduce with BIMSTEC and why it’s back to prominence
  • Discuss the significance of BIMSTEC for India.
  • Mention various challenges in realizing its potential
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal. Comprising of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan, BIMSTEC is home to 1.5 billion people, and a combined GDP of US$ 2.5 trillion. In 2016, India had hosted the BIMSTEC members at Goa during the BRICS Outreach Summit, signifying India’s renewed interest in this organization.
 
Significance of BIMSTEC for India:
  • BIMSTEC is an integral part of India’s ongoing efforts to map out new pathways of geo-economic cooperation among countries in the region which it sees as part of its extended neighbourhood.
  • BIMSTEC is a robust platform for promoting regional cooperation and connectivity. It is conceived as a bridge-builder between the SAARC and the ASEAN.
  • Work is going on some major projects on connectivity which could transform the movement of Goods & Vehicles through the countries in grouping, including Kaladan Multi-Modal Project and Asian Trilateral Highway.
  • BIMSTEC could be a potential game-changer for the north-eastern India’s quest for prosperity. The states of India’s northeast have shown a marked economic vibrancy, with the region clocking economic growth of 10% a year which is faster than the country’s average of about 5% a year.
  • In counterterrorism, close cooperation between India and BIMSTEC countries can strengthen the fight against terrorism and illicit drug trafficking.
  • The potential to tap the vast energy resources and scope for intra-regional trade and investment too is huge.
BIMSTEC more naturally lends itself to regional integration—physical connectivity as well as economic cooperation—than Saarc which is dominated by India and Pakistan and hamstrung by tensions between the two. Therefore, BIMSTEC seems an attractive alternative to SAARC.
 
Contentious issues concerning BIMSTEC nations:
  • Lack of commitment to invest in several priority areas identified by the member states are some key institutional factors holding the BIMSTEC back. The fact that BIMSTEC permanent Secretariat was established in Dhaka in 2014 17 years after its founding is often cited as example of lack of commitment.
  • There are some other bilateral issues like the India-Bangladesh dispute over Teesta river-water sharing, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s ongoing problems in regard to the Rohingya Muslims as refugees, as well as India-Lanka friction on the fishermen issue.
Way forward:
The potential of BIMSTEC is too large for few issues to hold it back and countries, with India taking the lead, must work to overcome them. For BIMSTEC to become an enabler of regional cooperation, it will have to evolve as an organisation that works through a bottom-up people-centric approach, with greater people-to-people contacts.

Subjects : Current Affairs

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