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.
Bangladesh fulfills an important stabilising role in South Asia. It has been able to perform this function in the last decade because of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to fortify the domestic scenario by first cracking down on terror outfits – and their political fronts. The clean-up was necessary, but a robust Opposition and democratic institutions need to be nourished too
Regional groupings in South Asia have turned out to be like diligent pupils whose report cards show performance below par. The reasons for such an impasse range from political divergences to the economic downturn and the much talked about China factor that has many implications for India
India’s global economic engagement, especially with the developing world, has increased in the last two decades, but trade with South Asia has remained low. It holds the potential for building greater productivity and more inclusive growth in India and the region
India’s new focus on Balochistan has more to do with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) than with Kashmir. China understands that CPEC may not be achievable. But there are real dangers in reviving Pakistani fears of secessionism and in broadening the field of Indo-Pakistani conflict beyond the confines of Kashmir.
The Indian government and businesses should stay away from giving an overly “mercantile” attitude to foreign policy and investments abroad. A deal secured by only economic heft and preying on weakness is likely to produce only bitter fruit later on.
The nuclear deal with Iran benefits India and Pakistan in terms of energy security and connectivity. But both countries also face challenges in their prospective engagement with Tehran, and both will have to tread carefully while using the new opportunities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s completion of the South Asia circuit demonstrates the importance of the neighbourhood in his government’s foreign policy. The improved perception of India in the neighbourhood, especially in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is a positive, but the neighbours must recognise that India’s federal structure makes decision-making slower and more difficult on issues that affect neighbouring Indian states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Afghanistan president Ghani has placed his eggs in the Pakistani basket and is waiting to see whether its actions match the plentiful words. However, New Delhi knows it enjoys a depth of support in Afghan society and can bide its time while Ghani tests the waters, as he will likely reach the same conclusions as most others
With the Modi government’s focus on improving neighbourhood relations, India cannot afford delays in its aid projects in the region—especially because aid is an effective foreign policy instrument. Why are these projects getting delayed? Is the government taking remedial steps to improve India’s aid programme?