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27-May-2024-Special-Article

May 27 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm

BIMSTEC ACQUIRES ‘LEGAL PERSONALITY’ AFTER CHARTER COMES INTO FORCE 

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) achieved a significant milestone with the entry into force of its charter on 20th May 2024.  

BIMSTEC is a regional organization comprising seven member states situated around the Bay of Bengal, aimed at fostering multifaceted technical and economic cooperation.  

This milestone marks a new phase in regional integration and cooperation in South and Southeast Asia. 

What is the BIMSTEC Grouping? 

BIMSTEC consists of seven member states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. 

  • Origin: Formed in 1997 with the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration, initially comprising Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Renamed BIMSTEC after Myanmar’s inclusion in 1997, followed by the admission of Nepal and Bhutan in 2004. 

Key Features of the BIMSTEC Charter 

  • International Recognition: The charter grants BIMSTEC legal entity status, enabling direct interaction with international organizations for diplomatic and cooperative efforts. 
  • Shared Goals: Outlines objectives focused on building trust, fostering friendly relations among member states, and accelerating economic development in the Bay of Bengal region. 
  • Structured Organisation: Establishes a framework for regular summits, ministerial, and senior officials’ meetings. 
  • Expanding Membership: Allows for potential expansion with new countries joining and others participating as observers. Each member state serves as a lead for a specific sector of cooperation. 

Significance of BIMSTEC 

  • Aligned with Act East Policy: BIMSTEC complements India’s Act East Policy, enhancing India’s trade and security influence in the Indian Ocean region and the Indo-Pacific. 
  • Alternative to SAARC: BIMSTEC emerged as an alternative to SAARC after India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan at the 2016 SAARC summit. It provides a platform for regional cooperation without Pakistan’s involvement. 
  • Counter to China: India sees BIMSTEC as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in South and Southeast Asia, promoting regional cooperation under its leadership. 
  • Promotion of Intangible Culture: Initiatives like India’s Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies at Nalanda University facilitate research on the cultural heritage of the region, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. 
  • Platform for Regional Cooperation: BIMSTEC brings together South and Southeast Asian countries, fostering enhanced cooperation in security, trade, and disaster management. 

Challenges to BIMSTEC 

  • Lack of Efficiency: Challenges arise due to inconsistent policy-making, infrequent meetings, and inadequate resources for BIMSTEC’s Secretariat. 
  • Limited Intra-Regional Trade: Despite agreements like the Free Trade Agreement, intra-regional trade remains low. Connectivity projects like BBIN are yet to materialize fully. 
  • Maritime Trade and Fisheries Challenges: Issues such as Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing pose significant challenges to maritime trade and sustainability in the Bay of Bengal. 
  • Other Regional Issues: Rohingya crisis, India-Nepal border disputes, and Myanmar’s political instability post-coup pose challenges to regional cooperation. 

Way Forward for BIMSTEC 

  • Finalizing the Charter: The BIMSTEC Charter provides a legal framework for cooperation, fostering stability and predictability. 
  • Transport Connectivity Master Plan: Develop a comprehensive strategy to improve regional infrastructure, facilitating trade and people-to-people contacts. 
  • Enhanced Cooperation: Strengthen cooperation in areas like law enforcement, maritime security, and disaster management to address common challenges. 
  • Addressing IUU Fishing: Implement projects like BOBLME to tackle IUU fishing, ensuring sustainability and conservation of marine resources. 
  • Technology Transfer: Establish a Technology Transfer Facility to bridge technological gaps among member states, promoting innovation and development. 
  • Diplomatic Engagement: Promote diplomatic ties and cooperation through initiatives like exchange programs and collaborative research. 

Conclusion 

The entry into force of the BIMSTEC Charter marks a significant step towards regional integration and cooperation in South and Southeast Asia.  

By addressing challenges and fostering enhanced cooperation, BIMSTEC can play a crucial role in promoting economic development, security, and stability in the Bay of Bengal region.  

This aligns with India’s broader efforts to strengthen its neighbourhood and Act East policy, ensuring peace and prosperity for all member states. 

Mains Question 

  1. “Discuss the significance of the entry into force of the BIMSTEC Charter and its potential to address regional challenges and foster cooperation in South and Southeast Asia.” (150 WORDS)

Details

Date:
May 27
Time:
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
Event Category:
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