What is BIMSTEC and why is it important for India?
Top leaders of BIMSTEC, or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, are meeting in Nepal over two days starting Thursday. This is only the fourth summit of the sub-regional group of seven countries in South Asia and South East Asia that had started with four countries in 1997.
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 make up for around 22% of the world’s population. The region has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.8 trillion.
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.
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 have so far identified 14 priority sectors. Each country leads one or more areas in a voluntary manner. India leads two — counter-terrorism and transnational crime, telecommunication and transport. But there has been a view that the proliferation of commitments didn’t yield tangible results over the past two decades and the regional grouping should trim its list of priorities.
What are expected to be the big takeaways from this summit?
Connectivity and security cooperation are expected to top the list of the regional grouping. India considers connectivity to be an important aspect of the cooperation of the grouping including physical connectivity, grid connectivity, and increasing the people to people contacts. The grouping is expected to agree to several measures including a protocol for coastal shipping agreements that could also give sea access to two landlocked countries, Nepal and Bhutan. Security cooperation to deal with traditional and non-traditional threats would also be a key focus area at the summit.
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