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BIMSTEC after the Colombo Summit

Context

Fifth Summit of the BIMSTEC was held in Colombo which advanced the regional cooperation and integration.

Relevance

GS-II: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Colombo Package
  • Trade Pillars and Support needed
  • Leaders and Commitments
  • What more is needed?
  • Way Forward

Colombo Package

  • BIMSTEC needs to strengthen itself by redefining its purposes and rejuvenating its organs and institutions.
  • Much needed process was launched at Leaders’ Retreat convened by India in 2016 and then in Kathmandu in 2018.
  • Decision to reduce the objectives to manageable seven, where each country has been allotted a sector.
  • Summit participants adopted a Master Plan for Transport Connectivity applicable for 2018-2028.
  • Package also includes three agreements relating to mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, cooperation between diplomatic academies, and establishment of technology transfer facility.

Trade Pillars and Support needed

  • Pillar of Trade, economic and investment cooperation needs greater strengthening at a rapid pace.
  • Though a comprehensive FTA was signed in 2004 but the goals haven’t been achieved yet.
  • Colombo Declaration instills little confidence for progress.
  • There is an urgent need expansion of connectivity projects but legal instruments for coastal shipping, road transport and intra-regional energy grid connection is still lacking.
  • Speedy success of deepening security and Humanitarian Assistance needs to be replicated.
  • Security and Economic Relations need to be balanced.

Leaders and Commitments

  • PM of Nepal – Region not on track to achieve SDGs by 2030 and CoVID-19 has further strained the efforts.
  • PM of Thailand – Called for a Prosperous, Resilient and Robust and Open (PRO) BIMSTEC.
  • India offered financial assistance to the Secretariat and established an Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) for producing a vision document.
  • Myanmar’s participation was restricted due to unstable political situation.
  • India and Thailand need to astutely manage the situation regarding Myanmar.
  •  Focus should be more on new areas like Blue Economy, Digital Economy and promotion of links and exchanges among the MSMEs.

What more is needed?

  • Personal engagement of political leadership should be upped.
  • BIMSTEC needs greater visibility and nations can utilize other multilateral forums for the same. Ex. India hosting G-20 Summit in 2023.
  • Simplified name needs some attention; Bay of Bengal Community (BoBC) seems viable.

Way Forward

BIMSTEC represents a fifth of the Global Population but contributes only 4% to the World GDP. To trigger an accelerated economic development it needs to turn its ambitions into actions via co-operation.

Source – The Hindu

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September 2022
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