Despite being elected Imran Khan’s new Prime Minister in Pakistan, India’s focus is more towards BIMSTEC instead of SAARC to promote regional cooperation, which is an indication of the coordination of India’s strategic understanding with demand of time. In October 2016, immediately after canceling the SAARC Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa and promised to revive BIMSTEC as the primary organization of India to promote regional cooperation. Done Through this article, we will try to know what are SAARC and BIMSTEC organizations and why is BIMSTEC more relevant to India than SAARC?
BIMSTEC and SAARC organizations
Bengal Bay Initiative (BIMSTEC) for Multi-Regional Technical and Economic Cooperation
- BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Technical and Economic Cooperation) was formed in Bangkok in June 1997 as a sub-regional economic cooperation group.
- Currently it has seven members, in which five countries from South Asia include Myanmar and Thailand, two countries from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia. The first BIMSTEC conference was organized by Thailand in Bangkok on July 30, 2004, which was a new direction to Bimstec’s sub-regional group.
- The BIMSTEC (Bengal Gulf Initiative for Multi-Regional Technical and Economic Cooperation) was changed in the name of BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Technical and Economic Cooperation).
South Asian Regional Cooperation Association (SAARC)
- SAARC is the economic and political organization of eight countries in South Asia.
- This group includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Before 2007, there were seven members of SAARC, Afghanistan became its eighth member in the SAARC 14th Summit in April 2007.
- SAARC was established on December 8, 1985, and its headquarters are in Kathmandu (Nepal). The first SAARC conference was held in Dhaka in December 1985.
- Every year on December 8, the SAARC Day is celebrated. The organization is governed by the Secretary-General appointed by the Council of Ministers of the member states, which is appointed for the three years as per alphabetical order of the countries.
Importance of BIMSTEC for India:
- Indeed, due to the negative role of Pakistan, India is giving Bismet more prominence in exchange for SAARC.
- Where Pakistan is obstructed in the progress of SAARC, Pakistan is not a member of BIMSTEC, so barriers to its progress will be relatively less.
- Apart from this, active participation in India’s BIMSTEC will have a positive impact on India’s East East Policy.
- India can accelerate the development of its North-Eastern region by establishing a multilateral relationship with BIMSTEC members.
- Cooperation between BIMSTEC India-Myanmar can also be expected to support the development of Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and the development of India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway project.
- This organization works like a bridge between South Asia and South Eastern countries. It is worth mentioning that there are two countries in this group also of Southeast Asia.
- Myanmar and Thailand are very important to connect India with the South East. This will boost India’s business.
- Apart from this, there are ample opportunities to increase regional connectivity through BIMSTEC for landed countries such as Nepal and Bhutan.
- To counter border cross-border terrorism and extremism, India needs a regional organization whose members are ideologically unanimous on the issue of terrorism.
- Through the BIMSTEC, India can promote blu-economy with its business by increasing its ties with its neighboring countries.
- Through BIMSTEC, India can increase connectivity with ASEAN countries.
- BIMSTEC is mandatory to strengthen Regional Cooperation in the entire area related to the Free Trade Agreement, poverty alleviation, tourism, energy and climate change and even terrorism and disaster management.
Major challenges to BIMSTEC’s progress:
- India is the largest member of BIMSTEC but due to lack of strong leadership, India has always been criticized.
- Firstly, this organization will not progress until the BIMSTEC secretariat is given an important authority. It is worth mentioning that for long, there has been a demand for establishment of a permanent secretariat for BIMSTEC.
- These areas lead various multilateral organizations, in which Thailand and Myanmar also give ASEAN more importance than BIMSTEC.
- Apart from this, there is a lack of coordination among member states of BIMSTEC, due to which regular and effective negotiations are not organized.
- The work of regional contact under BIMSTEC is slowing down, while China is quite active for the establishment of BCIM (Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-China) Economic Corridor.
- Significantly, the BCIM (Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-China) Economic Corridor is an ambitious project of China that will establish rail and road connectivity between India, Bangladesh, China and Myanmar. Apart from this, Kunming of India, Kolkata, China, Mandalay of Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong of Bangladesh will be linked together.
- There is no consensus among member countries on a free trade agreement (FTA) for the development of business activities in BIMSTEC region.
- The problem of refugees among some member countries of the organization is creating political, social and economic imbalances in the region.
What needs to be done?
- With the active participation and mutual co-ordination of all the member countries of BIMSTEC, India will have to move forward to make this regional organization a center of economic development.
- For better implementation of its aloof organization, focus on low priority areas also.
- India will have to play informally the role of Lecturer of BIMSTEC and prove its practical commitments to prove it a mishal.
- The secretariat will have to provide autonomy for the establishment of a multilateral agenda with the help of technical experts of its member countries and working as a crew between the Summit and Ministerial meetings.
- At the same time, it is also necessary for member countries to maintain the financial and human resources.
- Meeting all commitments on time by member countries itself often determines half success of multilateral organization.
Without SAARC, India is working at several levels to increase cooperation among South Asian countries. India is trying to overcome physical and regulatory barriers to make BIMTech a successful, mainly with its limited resources, mainly for freight, capital, services and free flow of people. Bimetakkara will definitely prove to be the most important organization of this region. India is also keen to organize a seminar for setting up business and tourism to set up ‘Brand BIMSTEC’ along with a separate seminar for start up companies of member countries. However, in spite of all the challenges of this sector, no option of BIMSTEC is so effective in enhancing regional connectivity and enhancing regional connectivity and reviving the Bay of Bengal community despite the security dialogue or terrorism cooperation initiative.
Source: Live Mint