Green shoots of revival: on BIMSTEC summit
Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations
Prelims level: BIMSTEC
Mains level: BIMSTEC will be crucial in further development of the Bay of Bengal region.
- The fourth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) held in Kathmandu.
- This was understandable, given the grouping’s past performance — modest in the previous 19 years and promising in the past two years.
- The same blend characterises the summit’s outcome.
- A dispassionate mindset is essential to assess its results accurately.
Positivity of BIMSTEC
- BIMSTEC leaders listened to officials, experts and business chambers, and concluded that this grouping (composed of five South Asian and two Southeast Asian nations) needed to be given a firm institutional foundation.
- In this summit several important decisions have been taken.
- It work begins now on drafting a charter for BIMSTEC, which has functioned so far on the basis of the Bangkok Declaration of 1997, and outcomes of the past three summits and the Leaders’ Retreat in 2016.
- A Permanent Working Committee will be set up to provide direction during the period between two summits and also to prepare the Rules of Procedure.
- The Secretariat has been promised additional financial and human resources and enhancement of its role to coordinate, monitor and facilitate the grouping’s activities.
Needs to improve BIMSTEC
- The institution has been handicapped due to lack of financial muscle, the leaders took the bold decision to establish the BIMSTEC Development Fund.
- Without strengthening itself financially, BIMSTEC cannot shed the unwanted tag of being a mere talk shop.
- A push to increase its visibility and stature in the international fora will also be made.
- It recognising that 16 areas of cooperation represent too wide a spectrum.
- This will be considered, although the difficulty in dropping specific sectors dear to individual member-states should not be minimised.
- At least six legal instruments awaiting finalisation, only one, the Memorandum of Understanding on Grid Interconnection, could be inked in Kathmandu.
- Fourteen years after signing the framework agreement on Free Trade Area (FTA), the leaders could only renew, rather lamely, their “commitment to an early conclusion” of FTA negotiations.
- The Thai Prime Minister bravely urged participants to accept making BIMSTEC a Free Trade Zone by 2021 as “our common goal”, but this did not find a place in the summit declaration.
- The Myanmar President pointed out that the grouping had established its Energy Centre in 2009, but it was still struggling for the “early operationalisation” of the Centre.
- The annex to the summit’s declaration presents an overview of the present state of play in various areas of activity.
- It plans to revitalise the Business Forum and the Economic Forum should be welcome if they help in fully engaging business and industry.
- Cooperation in the security domain has been progressing satisfactorily, with a new instrument added to the arsenal: a meeting of home ministers.
- This will be in addition to annual meetings of national security advisers and the first meeting of army chiefs, which is due to take place in Pune this month.
- It envisaged is a sound plan to establish forums for parliamentarians, universities, cultural organisations and the media community.
- The summit articulated a vision for the Bay of Bengal Region heading towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future.
- The region is now widely viewed as a common space for security, connectivity and development.
- Think tanks are fond of advising governments that they should walk the talk.
- BIMSTEC can become a dynamic, effective and result-oriented organisation.
- The coming year will be crucial in its further development.
UPSC Prelims Questions:
Q.1) Consider the following statements about BIMSTEC:
1. All BIMSTEC members are coastal nations surrounding Bay of Bengal
2. India is a founding member of BIMSTEC
Choose the correct statements from the option given below:
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Nepal is also a member of BIMSTEC which is not a coastal nation
UPSC Mains Questions:
1. How BIMSTEC will be crucial in further development of the Bay of Bengal region.