(Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation)


  1. It is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1997 through the Bangkok declaration, comprising 5 South Asian nations and 2 ASEAN countries, housing 1.73 billion people and having a combined GDP of USD 4.4 trillion (2022).
  2. The grouping include India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan.
  3. It aims to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development, accelerate social progress and promote collaboration on matters of common interest in the region.


  1. Link between South Asia and Southeast Asia: BIMSTEC can help India to accord primacy to her immediate neighborhood and connect it with Southeast Asia.
  2. For instance, India in recent years have been moving its diplomatic energy away from SAARC to BIMSTEC which resulted in BIMSTEC, finally adopting its Charter earlier this year.
  3. BIMSTEC also aligns with India’s ‘Act East’ policy for greater regional cooperation in Southeast Asia and provide a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  4. Non-disruptive functioning: Pakistan not being a BIMSTEC member could help India bolster its regional ambitions in the grouping without any impediment as Pakistan routinely vetoes several regional integration initiatives in the SAARC.
  5. More accommodative grouping: Unlike the SAARC Charter, the BIMSTEC Charter talks about the ‘Admission of new members’ to the group, hence paving the way for the admission of countries such as the Maldives.


Challenges to BIMSTEC

  1. Inconsistency in Meetings: BIMSTEC planned to hold summits every two years, ministerial meetings every year, but only four summits have taken place in 20 years upto 2018.
  2. Bilateral Issues between Member Nations: Bangladesh is facing one of the worst refugee crisis of Rohingyas from Myanmar who are fleeing prosecution in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar. There is a border conflict between Myanmar and Thailand.
  3. Broad Focus Areas: The focus of BIMSTEC is very wide, including 14 areas of cooperation like connectivity, public health, agriculture etc. It is suggested that BIMSTEC should remain committed to small focus areas and cooperate in them efficiently.

Way forward

  1. India, being a bigger nation with greater economic leverage, should play an important role by contributing generously in strengthening the organisation without affecting the domestic interests of other member states.
  2. Setting up a BIMSTEC Development Fund and the BIMSTEC Infrastructure Bank to implement various infrastructure projects to enhance economic cooperation and regional connectivity is significant.
  3. India’s efforts towards developing the India-Myanmar-Thailand Asian Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and the BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement are remarkable for the easy movement of goods and vehicles in the region. The projects should be completed as soon as possible.

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