Despite its natural advantages, the Bay of Bengal region lags economically, in part due to insufficient connectivity between the member nations. Improving financial connectivity between them is the first step to easing movement of goods, services and people. Greater financial collaboration also can help the region mitigate the impact of ongoing geopolitical upheavals that have caused food and energy prices to rise.
After many early achievements, BRICS is now in gridlock, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, India-China border tensions, and the Ukraine conflict. Despite its apparent diplomatic bankruptcy, 19 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America are eagerly waiting in line to join the grouping.
Dhaka recently hosted the Indian Ocean Conference 2023, a multi-country event featuring speakers and participants from the Indian Ocean countries. In recent years, Bangladesh has gone from a ‘basket-case’ to a case study in progress, and across Dhaka are signs of a city undergoing dramatic change.
The Sri Lankan economy is showing signs of stabilizing after experiencing the worst contraction in its history in 2022. Decisive policies by President Ranil Wickremasinghe, timely Indian aid, and an IMF Programme have laid the groundwork for a return to growth. India and Sri Lanka must now shift from an aid relationship to one which deepens bilateral trade and investment flows.
On 10-12 May, 2023, Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director, Gateway House participated in the T20 Mid-year Conference hosted by Think20 and G20 in Mumbai. She delivered a special address on the integral position of Mumbai in the Indo-Pacific, pointing out the city’s historical, geopolitical, maritime, and commercial linkages with the Indian Ocean world.
India, as chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, hosted the foreign ministers’ meet in Goa last week. What would have been an important and expanding regional grouping has been complicated by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the increased influence of China and an obstructionist Pakistan. Still, India has played its role with an eye on the long term.
India’s Northeast is developing and getting close to its goal of being part of the Indian mainstream in connectivity and business – which is also critical for the success of India’s Act East Policy. For both goals, Bangladesh and Japan are invaluable partners and friends. The troika’s collaboration can be a model in the region.
India is rapidly increasing its economic engagement with Russia, and other former Soviet countries. This means it must look at old friends in Central Asia with new eyes. Uzbekistan is one of them. India is one of a quartet of geopolitical powers playing to the strategic interests of this nation which sits at the crossroads of South, East, West and Central Asia and Russia.