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”.
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The Bay of Bengal is a natural bridge between South and South-East Asia, which New Delhi seeks to optimise. But progress on India's Act East policy has been slow, creating a space for China's Belt and Road Initiative to step into. While India cannot match China’s cheque-book diplomacy, it can use its start-up industry to pursue a combination of physical, technological and financial projects to improve regional connectivity.
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.
Three senior U.S. officials visited Asia in July in a well-choreographed diplomatic outreach strategy by the Biden administration. The U.S is willing to prioritise the Indo-Pacific and counter China. Asia cannot afford to be a reticent bystander.
On 15 July, Gateway House co-hosted a webcast with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) on 'Countering China’s Maritime Grey Zone Activities'. The panel discussed the potential strategies that smaller nations in the region can adopt to overcome the challenges of Chinese maritime grey zone activities, and the role of regional maritime powers in capability-building of maritime law enforcement agencies.
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.
We hosted a webcast with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on, Myanmar: Hundred days after the coup on 13 May 2021 at 5:30 PM IST. This webcast discussed the conflict in Myanmar, the pulse of the protesters’ fight for democracy, the ominous presence of China as well as Russia and multilateral measures that the neighbouring countries including India can take towards restoring democratic processes in Myanmar.
Since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, violence and protests have broken out across the country and are continuing. Supported by India and Japan, ASEAN has played a key role, by calling the emergency summit in Jakarta. It has bridged internal gaps and helped navigate the international community to a reconciliation of the crisis. India must continue support to such efforts, which aim for immediate and long-term peace.
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.