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.
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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.
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.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, delivered the keynote address at the panel discussion on India in the Indo-Pacific: Pursuing Prosperity and Security, organised by Gateway House and the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, on 1 February 2022. He outlined India's vision for a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific, and the initiatives undertaken to further cooperation among nations in the region.
On 25 October 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House presented his remarks at the Technical Session 1 on ‘Post-Covid Economic Recovery and Restoring Growth Momentum in BIMSTEC’ of the International Symposium on “BIMSTEC: A Vehicle for Growth and Development”.
On 6 October 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, spoke to Dr. Pramod Jaiswal, Strategic Affairs Editor at Khabarhub on the role of Nepal in BIMSTEC and SAARC, in an analysis of the 17th BIMSTEC ministerial meetings. He also highlighted the role of SAARC and BIMSTEC in countering Chinese influence in the region.
On 27 June 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House, chaired a session on Revitalizing SAARC and BIMSTEC. This was part of the Global Conclave 2021, hosted by the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), Kathmandu. Bhatia spoke about the present state, past trajectory and future challenges and opportunities for regional and sub-regional cooperation through SAARC and BIMSTEC.
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"?
During the Bay of Bengal Economic Dialogue 2021 on, Post-COVID Challenges in the Bay of Bengal Region, Amb. Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, Gateway House addresses the staggered growth of BIMSTEC, whilst also highlighting its potential as a regional grouping. He identifies the lack of political commitment, bureaucratic inertia and insufficient engagement of the Third Space and disregard for the region as a community as the chief obstacles to a successful initiative.