The 17th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) ministerial meeting was held on 1 April 2021. Though the grouping is ready to move forward, a number of obstacles stand in the way of this, including regional tensions, uncertainties surrounding SAARC and China's involvement in the multilateral. As BIMSTEC is to celebrate the silver jubilee of its formation next year, can it achieve its goal, to effect “a paradigm-shift in raising the level of cooperation and regional integration"?
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This month marks the beginning of triple celebrations in Bangladesh, including the 50th anniversary of its independence, for which Prime Minister Modi will be traveling to Dhaka as the guest of honour. There is much to celebrate: A country that began as a case study for development is now on top of the global GDP charts. The springboard was achieved through a thriving textiles industry, women's workforce participation, micro finance, liberal investment policies. There is much to learn from this neighbour.
The first-ever Quad Leaders' Summit on March 12, 2021 was a defining moment in Asian geopolitics, with the promise of a strong political commitment in the future. A joint op-ed by the Quad leaders stated a number of priorities for the grouping, ranging from security in the Indo-Pacific to climate change to vaccine partnerships. This is a crucial partnership for India, as this grouping of democracies will reinforce Indian diplomatic initiatives, launching the country into global relevance.
In its recent itineration, the Quad (or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) has been toiling since 2017, through deliberations among mid-level and senior officials, to develop a common vision for the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region, challenges caused by China's menacing rise and aggressive behaviour.
The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) presents a unique opportunity to develop a Blue Economy, with security, sustainability and business profitability as its three pillars. An IOR Defence Ministers' Conclave held on 4 February provided a platform to discuss regional cooperation, linking development with defence, and emphasized India's pivotal position within the IOR.
On February 1, the Myanmar army seized power, turning a partial democracy into a full-fledged military rule, once again. Whenever democracy suffers, India feels concerned. However, New Delhi is committed to the policy of non-interference in another state’s internal affairs. It is also guided by its national interest and will astutely balance principles, values, interests, and geopolitical realities.
The recent in-person Quad meeting attended by external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and the India-U.S. 2+2 meeting of foreign and defence ministers in New Delhi, highlights not only the big upgrade in India’s strategic relations with the U.S. but also the enhanced U.S. focus on India, the Indo-Pacific and Asia. Clearly then, the foreign policy of the next U.S. administration will impact India, Asia and the world.
The record of regional cooperation on rivers since India's independence in 1947 is one of several successes, with some contestations. In contrast to the past when governments strove to divide and share river waters, the endeavor has now shifted to thinking about comprehensive river basin development which makes the process even more complex. India’s policy on transboundary river governance must now also be aware of the increasing importance of Indo-Pacific in the global geopolitics.
The delivery of five Rafale fighter jets last month is a big boost for Indian military capacity. The government's recent ban on the import of 101 defence items is a major step forward in building domestic defence-industrial capabilities. Partnering with like-minded diplomatic partners and adopting emerging technologies will help India in this endeavour.
The first-ever virtual summit of leaders from member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on March 15 was an innovative exercise in showing solidarity in containing a pandemic. Here is an assessment of its tangible outcomes – and longer-term ways to prepare for SAARC’s revival