BIMSTEC Charter: A Step Forward for Bay of Bengal Cooperation

GS-2 Mains

Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Question : Analyze the evolution of BIMSTEC from its inception in 1997 to the adoption of the BIMSTEC Charter in 2022.

BIMSTEC: A Subregional Organization

  • Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
  • Seven Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand
  • 22% of world population (over 1.68 billion people)
  • Combined GDP of over US$3.697 trillion

History of BIMSTEC

  • Founded in 1997 as BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand)
  • Became BIMST-EC with entry of Myanmar (1997)
  • Renamed to current form in 2004 with inclusion of Nepal and Bhutan
  • Sector-focused cooperation: trade, technology, energy, transport, climate change (since 2008), tourism, fisheries

BIMSTEC Charter

  • Adopted during the 5th BIMSTEC Summit (Colombo, 2022)
  • Provides legal and institutional framework for BIMSTEC
  • Aims for rapid economic development through cooperation projects
  • Reaffirms commitment to principles of the Bangkok Declaration (1997)

Significance of the Charter

  • Formalizes BIMSTEC as an organization
  • Enables external relations with non-members, development partners, and international organizations
  • Emphasizes fair, just, and transparent international order
  • Recommitment to multilateralism and UN

BIMSTEC and India

  • Aligns with India’s Neighbourhood First and Act East policies
  • Promotes regional cooperation in South and Southeast Asia
  • Important for economic integration with Southeast Asia (BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement)
  • Positions India as a security pillar (counter-terrorism, transnational crime)
  • Supports connectivity and infrastructure development (BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity)

Challenges for India

  • Uneven progress across cooperation sectors
  • Regional conflicts among member states (e.g., Rohingya crisis)
  • Legal and institutional hurdles (finalizing agreements)
  • Security concerns (terrorism)

Conclusion

  • BIMSTEC Charter strengthens regional cooperation for a peaceful, prosperous Bay of Bengal Region.
  • The organization is poised to play a crucial role in future.

 

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