India will be president of the G20 in 2023. The world’s most influential economic governance body is facing an existential crisis, where the major powers have fallen out. With geopolitical currents redefining geo-economics, India needs to be ready to emerge as the chief global diplomat.
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June 6, 2022, marks 25 years since India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand joined hands to create BIMSTEC and infuse South Asia with economic and institutional cooperation. The strategic geography of this grouping has the potential to bring new synergy between South Asia and the recently-instituted Indo Pacific Economic Framework, ASEAN and the Quad, for a prosperous, secure Bay of Bengal Community.
After its fourth summit on May 24, the Quad has emerged stronger and clearer in its initiatives which are aimed at addressing the Indo-Pacific’s geopolitical challenges. India now has a chance to work with like-minded democracies on an equal footing, with much to contribute. The Quad’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific is to deepen internalised cooperation for continued peace, prosperity, and stability.
A serious stocktaking is expected at the Quad Leaders' Summit in Tokyo, to measure the progress of its wide-ranging list and proposals. In addition to vaccine partnerships, climate change, and connectivity, the Quad must now craft a common strategy for and expedite cooperation in, the economy, higher education, industry, and technology. It will also project unity in the Indo-Pacific region.
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.
India has done considerable groundwork to turn into a blue economy nation through its maritime policies and active support of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The time is right for the country to now focus on blue diplomacy, with an emphasis on maritime security and sustainable, equitable harnessing of maritime resources.
The Sino-U.S. contestation is a central tenet of the Indo-Pacific. In this power tussle, the EU strategy for the region provides a new way to engage with partners in the "Third Space" for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
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.
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.