Sri Lanka is experiencing an economic, political and strategic crisis it has never had before. The situation is fragile – but a creative solution and determined national interest can help return the island nation to stability and growth. Amb. Rajiv Bhatia, in conversation with economist Dr Ganeshan Wignaraja on how Sri Lanka came to the current condition, and the remedies to adopt.
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Great power competition in the Indo-Pacific is a concern for regional powers. India’s maritime security strategy has adapted to this geo-political change, and is moving from acting as a balancing power, to a leading force in the region. India is a near, yet non-resident power, and has a strategy for providing stability, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
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.
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.
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.
The Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, held in Melbourne on February 11, revealed an ambitious plan for economic and developmental affairs, beyond the security concerns posed by China. Despite differing approaches towards Myanmar and Ukraine, the Quad countries are strengthening their cooperation while maintaining strategic autonomy.
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.
The EU's Indo-Pacific strategy, released in September, set the tone for a renewed focus on the region. Europe's Asia connect is rich, strong and multi-layered, laying the foundation for an advantageous position for the EU in the Indo-Pacific. This can be achieved if the EU is more candid with itself, more assertive with China, and more cooperative with India.