The significance of BIMSTEC grouping in the wake of changing nature of geo-strategic polity and power conflicts in South Asian region writes S.M.Umair
Majority of the BIMSTEC countries are situated in the South Asian Region, prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, avalanches and droughts. These countries namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand are home to around 1.5 billion people. Hence, BIMSTEC nations comprise 22% of the global population. This is to say that the significance of this group can never be overstated. However, in the wake of recent skirmishes and troubles in the region the grouping it seems has lost much of its significance. In this article, we understand the importance of BIMSTEC and its aims and mission.
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation is more popularly called as BIMSTEC. It is an international organisation, established in 1997, comprising of the above mentioned seven nations with its headquarters at Dhaka, Bangladesh. These nations are largely dependent on the Bay of Bengal. The main aim of this organisation is technological and economic co-operation among the member nations of this region. Hence, this group plays an important role, apart from ASEAN, in India’s quest for better connectivity with South East Asian nations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his message on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of BIMSTEC, described the sub-regional grouping as “a natural platform” to fulfill India’s “key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’”. Earlier in late 2016, India hosted the BIMSTEC members at Goa during the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Outreach Summit. It demonstrated India’s potential to play the role of a regional leader, an aspiration which was instrumental in transforming its ‘Look East’ into ‘Act East’ policy.
BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organisation. It started off with its focus on six sectors namely trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries only. But in 2008, it expanded to include nine more sectors, including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change thereby having 15 sectors as its focus areas.
The grouping was in news for its First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ (BIMSTEC DMEx-2017). This exerecise will be conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as the lead agency from October 10-13, 2017 in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). At the 17th BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting held in Kathmandu, Nepal in February, 2017, it was decided that India would organise the first annual Disaster Management Exercise for the region.