Fulfilling the potential of the Bay of Bengal community 

News: Recently, the fifth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was concluded in Colombo. The organization is also celebrating its 25th year of the formation, which was launched in 1997.  

What were the outcomes of the summit? 

The summit had three important outcomes:

– Expanding the grouping’s agenda, deepening cooperation between the member countries and planning systematically for consistency and coherence. 

– the BIMSTEC charter was finalised after more than two decades. It articulates the purpose, principles, legal standing and regular meeting of the organisation. It stipulates that consensus is required for admission of new members and increasing the number of observer countries of the organisation.  

– The Master Plan for Transport Connectivity has been adopted. It has been proposed to extend the trilateral highway project between Thailand, Myanmar and India to Laos and Cambodia. Further, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal have also shown interest in the project. These measures will ensure seamless connectivity through multi-modal channels. It will deepen cooperation in the region.

The organization has proposed to conclude the regional free trade agreement. It will give a fillip to the organisation’s efforts. 

The MoU has been signed for legal assistance in criminal matters. Further, additional MOUs have been signed for mutual cooperation between diplomatic academics and training institutes. 

An Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) is to be established on the lines of the EU, G20, and ASEAN. It will formulate a vision document for the region. It will suggest a roadmap to address the challenges in the future. 

What commitments have been made by India?  

India has promised $1 million to set up a Secretariat in Dhaka (As proposed in the 4th Summit in Kathmandu).  

India has committed to provide a $3 million grant to the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate 

India will promote collaboration between industries and start-ups, and would help in adoption of international standards and norms.  

India proposed an agricultural trade analysis based on the regional value chain. It will be conducted by the RIS 

Way Forward 

The term of the Secretary-General of the BIMSTEC may be extended. It would provide stability to several of the collective’s initiatives. 

Besides economic links, the Bay of Bengal countries share a cultural and civilisational legacy. Therefore, institutions like Nalanda University can play a role in promoting research on cultural and civilisational linkage. They can help in the adoption of sustainable practices in the region. 

Source: The post is based on an article “Fulfilling the potential of the Bay of Bengal Community” published in The Hindu on 09th April 2022. 

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