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All you need to know about BIMSTEC, the huddle of Bay of Bengal nations

india Updated: Oct 14, 2016 18:43 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman with secretary(East) of ministry of external affairs, Preeti Saran during the BIMSTEC business summit in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

The leaders of seven-member BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) will be meeting in Goa for an outreach meeting with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Considering the last BIMSTEC summit was held in 2014, this would be the highest-level meeting of the grouping in two years’ time. They will have a retreat session before the outreach meeting dinner with the BRICS leaders on October 16.

Here’s all to know about BIMSTEC and why the grouping matters to India:

What’s BIMSTEC

Though BIMSTEC is a Bay of Bengal camp, two land-locked states -- Nepal and Bhutan -- are also part of the seven member-group. Five of them are from South Asia -- India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka -- and two from South East Asia -- Myanmar and Thailand.

What this grouping means in numbers

The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population. The region has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.7 trillion. In the last five years, BIMSTEC member states have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.

What is India’s interest in the grouping

The BIMSTEC is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. The two Southeast Asian countries in the grouping, Myanmar and Thailand, have a crucial place for India’s ambitious connectivity plans for northeastern region. Myanmar is only Southeast Asian country India has a land boundary with. An India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is one of the key projects that figures in a big way in the government’s Act East (earlier Look East) policy. With the India-Pakistan bickering coming in way of a smooth functioning of the Saarc, groupings such as BIMSTEC can take forward the concept of regional cooperation in a different manner.

Read | Modi will have Pak, trade ties on mind as he hosts BRICS Summit

What are the founding principles of the BIMSTEC

The cooperation within BIMSTEC will be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. This cooperation within BIMSTEC will constitute an addition to, and not be a substitute for, bilateral, regional or multilateral cooperation involving the member states.

What are the priority sectors of the BIMSTEC grouping

Seven members of BIMSTEC cover 14 priority sectors. Each country leads one or more area in a voluntary manner. India leads two -- counter terrorism and transnational crime, telecommunication and transport. The other key sectors are trade and investment, technology, energy, tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural cooperation, environment and disaster management, public health, people-to-people contact, poverty alleviation, etc.