Context:

India’s External Affairs Minister expressed commitment about taking the Bay of Bengal community to “new heights” at the 17th ministerial meet of the BIMSTEC.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies and conferences affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About BIMSTEC
  2. Highlights of India’s views at 17th ministerial meet of BIMSTEC
  3. BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement

About BIMSTEC

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia:

  1. Bangladesh
  2. Bhutan
  3. India
  4. Nepal
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Myanmar (South-east Asia)
  7. Thailand (South-east Asia)
India has invited the leaders of the BIMSTEC Member States for the  swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is in line with  the Government's focus on its 'Neighbourhood First' policy.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are the member states dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
  • Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.
  • The permanent secretariat of the BIMSTEC is in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

History of Formation

  • In 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • In 2004, at the first Summit the grouping was renamed as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

There are 14 main sectors of BIMSTEC along technological and economic cooperation among south Asian and southeast Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

  1. Trade & Investment
  2. Transport & Communication
  3. Energy
  4. Tourism
  5. Technology
  6. Fisheries
  7. Agriculture
  8. Public Health
  9. Poverty Alleviation
  10. Counter-Terrorism & Transnational Crime
  11. Environment & Disaster Management
  12. People-to-People Contact
  13. Cultural Cooperation
  14. Climate Change

The BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship which has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).

Highlights of India’s views at 17th ministerial meet of BIMSTEC

  • Cohesion among the members has been difficult to achieve mainly because of the Rohingya refugee crisis which created bitterness between Myanmar and Bangladesh. This affected the working of the organisation to some extent as it could not develop a common charter.
  • The text of the BIMSTEC Charter, which will provide common set of rules and goals, has been finalized and is set for its adoption at the fifth BIMSTEC summit.
  • The summit avoided any reference to Myanmar’s current crisis which has triggered an outflow of refugees to BIMSTEC members India and Thailand.
  • After the 2017 exodus of the Rohingyas, the crisis is the second occasion where Myanmar’s domestic developments have triggered displacement of citizens.
  • It is understood that despite the crackdown India has chosen to maintain communication with the military junta in Myanmar because of diplomatic requirements.
  • The meeting also approved the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity which will be taken up during the next summit of the organisation to be hosted by Sri Lanka.

BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement

  • The BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement (BFTAFA) has been signed by all member nations to stimulate trade and investment in the parties, and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in the BIMSTEC countries at a higher level.
  • The BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement draft was discussed on 1 December 2017 in New Delhi, to facilitate coastal shipping within 20 nautical miles of the coastline in the region to boost trade between the member countries.
  • In 2019, the first ever BIMSTEC Conclave of Ports summit was held in Visakhapatnam, India, for providing a platform to strengthen maritime interaction, port-led connectivity initiatives and sharing best practices among member countries.

-Source: The Hindu

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