The more India enjoys cooperative relations with its neighbours, the greater its ability to exert influence in the world. Meanwhile, neighbours looking at India with a reasonable mindset may internalise that cooperating with the world’s fifth largest economy is clearly in their interest.
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Since 1947, India has had a proud record of development cooperation. It began even though it was newly independent and itself developing, but created a camaraderie with movements in other emerging countries. Now after 75 years, its time to move toward an FDI-led model, which will particularly help reduce the rising indebtedness in the developing world.
Narendra Modi has completed eight years as the Prime Minister of India. His tenure has seen a strengthened and transformed Indian foreign policy. In his book, Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises, author Sreeram Chaulia studies India’s national security crises under Modi, and his handling of it. His main argument that Modi was more decisive than his predecessors in dealing with China and Pakistan, holds.
The BIMSTEC charter has laid the foundations for a prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable Bay of Bengal region, a goal that can be achieved by greater integration and deeper collaboration. While ensuring continuity with past efforts and strengthening economic cooperation is necessary, it must also realise its potential in newer areas such as the blue economy, which has three interlinked pillars— connectivity, prosperity, and regional stability.
The rejuvenated BIMSTEC, with a new charter in hand, is now expanding its ambition and mission. One such area is climate change, which needs greater attention as it will have implications for the Bay of Bengal and beyond. With their unique climate conditions and action plans can together create a model for regional cooperation.
The recently concluded BIMSTEC summit is now a regional intergovernmental organization with a formal charter, giving it a clear mission and legality and a destiny linked to South and South East Asia. It is now better equipped to accelerate economic development for the fifth of the world’s population, which contributes only 4% of global GDP.
China's 2022 defence budget reflects the seriousness of the Communist Party aims to fully modernise the People’s Liberation Army by 2027. Given the on-going border competition, it is crucial for India too, to optimise budgetary resources, intensify restructuring and enhance indigenous defence production, thereby improve power projection capability.
BIMSTEC is of special importance to India as it is a crucial link between the Neighbourhood First and Act East policies. This almost 25 year old multilateral can contribute to the Indo-Pacific region by addressing challenges in strategic areas of regional connectivity, security cooperation, free trade, and geoeconomic ties with external partners.
While several Bay of Bengal countries are rich in hydropower and thermal electricity generation, others are net energy importers with large markets. India can lead creative energy projects with its eastern neighbours, supported by regional and international institutions.
The Bay of Bengal is gaining relevance as a significant sub-region within the Indo-Pacific. Despite its importance to regional security, there is inadequate financial, physical, and energy connectivity. India must use its strategic and political pre-eminence and influence in the sub-region to pursue deeper connectivity with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and to block China's growing influence.