24-MAY-2024 CURRENT AFFAIRS

Context:

The BIMSTEC charter comes into force, granting the grouping ‘legal personality’ status.

Relevance:

BIMSTEC Charter Comes Into Force

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests, Important International groupings), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About BIMSTEC
  3. History of Formation of BIMSTEC
  4. Significance of BIMSTEC
  5. Strategic Significance for India

Details:

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has acquired ‘legal personality’ status after a historic first charter of the grouping came into force on May 20. BIMSTEC will now be open to new members and observers. This change enables the grouping to enter into structured diplomatic dialogue with other groupings and countries. The entry into force of the BIMSTEC Charter reaffirms India’s commitment to a prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable neighbourhood. BIMSTEC reflects the synthesis of our Neighbourhood First and Act East policies.

About BIMSTEC:

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar (South-east Asia)
  • Thailand (South-east Asia)

These member states are dependent on the Bay of Bengal, lying in the littoral and adjacent areas, thus constituting a contiguous regional unity. BIMSTEC connects South and Southeast Asia, along with the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified, and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors. The permanent secretariat of BIMSTEC is in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The BIMSTEC Chairmanship rotates alphabetically among member states, starting with Bangladesh (1997–1999).

History of Formation of BIMSTEC:

  • 1997: A new sub-regional grouping formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • 1997: Following Myanmar’s inclusion on December 22 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • 2004: At the first Summit, the grouping was renamed BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).

Significance of BIMSTEC:

  • BIMSTEC acts as a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • Approximately one-fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the Bay of Bengal annually.

Important Connectivity Projects related to BIMSTEC:

  • Kaladan Multimodal Project: Links India and Myanmar.
  • Asian Trilateral Highway: Connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
  • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement: For seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic.

Strategic Significance for India:

BIMSTEC enables India to pursue three core policies:

  1. Neighbourhood First: Primacy to the country’s immediate periphery.
  2. Act East: Connect India with Southeast Asia.
  3. Economic Development of India’s North Eastern States: By linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.

India’s shift from Look East Policy to Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific cooperation leverages its diaspora, culture, and connectivity, enhancing India’s goodwill in the region. BIMSTEC provides a platform for India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal, especially through its Belt and Road Initiative. Physical connectivity with BIMSTEC would help India integrate with ASEAN’s Master Plan of Connectivity 2025. BIMSTEC offers a new platform for India to engage with its neighbours, as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has become dysfunctional due to differences between India and Pakistan. Consequently, BIMSTEC has received special attention as New Delhi treats it as a more practical instrument for regional cooperation over a faltering SAARC.

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