BaBay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) | IAS Target IAS Target

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of the seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia. BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been recognized and several BIMSTEC centres have been set-up to focus on those sectors. A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation. Leadership is rotated in alphabetical order of country names. ADB became a partner in 2005, to undertake the "BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study" (BTILS), which was completed in 2014.

Establishment 6 June 1997 (BIST-EC Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation) 22 December 1997 after the joining of Myanmar it became BIMSTEC
Secretariat Dhaka
Population 1.5 billion people
GDP $3.5 trillion (2018)
Member states Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan

Objective of BIMSTEC

  • Trade & Investment
  • Transport & Communication
  • Energy
  • Fisheries
  • Agriculture
  • Public Health
  • Poverty Alleviation
  • Cultural Cooperation
  • Climate Change
  • Tourism
  • Technology
  • Counter-Terrorism & Transnational Crime
  • Environment & Disaster Management
  • People-to-People Contact

The main objective of BIMSTEC is technological and economical cooperation among South Asian and South East Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal


Significance of BIMSTEC

  • A fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the bay every year.
  • Platform for intra-regional and inter-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • Bridge between South and South East Asia and help in connecting the region
  • Important Connectivity Projects:

    • Kaladan Multimodal Project – links India and Myanmar.
    • Asian Trilateral Highway - connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
    • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement - for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic.

BIMSTEC importance for India

  • Help in India's Neighborhood First policy - primacy to the country’s immediate periphery
  • Economic development of India’s northeastern states – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar. This will create economic opportunities and help in creating employment opportunities
  • It is a good opportunity for region's cooperation as SAARC becomes a battleground due to the India-Pakistan fight.
  • The Bay also has vast untapped natural resources. One-fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the Bay every year.
  • Permits India to counter China’s influence in the region around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • China boosts its activities in the region like port call on Srilanka, funding to small island countries in the Indian Ocean region, and massive connectivity projects. As China mounts assertive activities in the Bay of Bengal region, with increased submarine movement and ship visits in the Indian Ocean, it is in India’s interest to consolidate its internal engagement among the BIMSTEC countries.
  • Almost 300 million people live in the four coastal states adjacent to the Bay of Bengal (Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal) and, about 45 million people, who live in landlocked Northeastern states, will have the opportunity to connect via the Bay of Bengal to Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand, opening up possibilities in terms of development.
  • From the strategic perspective, the Malacca straits which are a chokepoint and linking the Indian Ocean and Pacific region has emerged as a key theatre for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.

Issues associated with BIMSTEC

  • Not importance attached to BIMSTEC by member countries
  • More optimism but the low result on ground and focus on broad areas (14 areas)
  • Not regular Meetings: only four summits have taken place in 20 years
  • No FTA: BIMSTEC FTA was negotiated in 2004, talks on it are yet to be concluded.
  • BCIM another connectivity project also created more doubts about the exclusive potential of BIMSTEC.
  • Bilateral Issues between Member Nations: Bangladesh is facing one of the worst refugee crisis of Rohingyas from Myanmar who is fleeing prosecution in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
  • There is a border conflict between Myanmar and Thailand.

BIMSTEC summit

No. Date Host Country Host City
1st 2004 Thailand Bangkok
2nd 2008 India New Delhi
3rd 2014 Myanmar Naypyidaw
4th 2018 Nepal Kathmandu
5th 2022 Sri Lanka Colombo