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Day 88 – Q 1.Do you think BIMSTEC has the real potential to transform the collective future of South Asia? Examine. What are the challenges therein? Discuss

1. Do you think BIMSTEC has the real potential to transform the collective future of South Asia? Examine. What are the challenges therein? Discuss. 

क्या आपको लगता है कि बिम्सटेक में दक्षिण एशिया के सामूहिक भविष्य को बदलने की वास्तविक क्षमता है? की जांच करें। उसमें क्या चुनौतियां हैं? चर्चा करें।


The South Asian region covers roughly three percent of the world’s total land area and is home to around 21 percent of the population. The region has a diverse socioeconomic setup, including major economic powers such as India. In this regard, BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is intended to be a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. 


  • Of late the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is receiving sincere attention from its member countries as an organisation that has the potential to transform the region’s political and economic future. 
  • Consequently, BIMSTEC is seen to have a real potential to transform the collective future of south asia due to the following factors:
  • In view of the continued failure of SAARC to provide a platform for south asian integration, BIMSTEC has gained more favour as the preferred platform for regional cooperation in South Asia. 
  • The general belief is that BIMSTEC does not have the limitations that the India-Pakistan conflict imposes on SAARC; therefore, it can be a transformative institutional mechanism for regional cooperation. 
  • Further, One of the reasons for BIMSTEC’s popularity is that the member countries have generally cordial relationships, something patently missing among the SAARC countries.
  • BIMSTEC’s primary focus is on economic and technical cooperation among the countries of South Asia and SouthEast Asia. So far, 14 sectors have been identified for enhancing regional cooperation among the member countries.
  • BIMSTEC’s major strength comes from the fact that it includes two influential regional powers: Thailand and India. This adds to the comfort of smaller neighbours by reducing the fear of dominance by one big power. Further, it augurs well with India’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policies.
  • The region has countries with the fastest-growing economies in the world. The combined GDP in the region is more than US$3 trillion and will likely grow further. Trade among the BIMSTEC member countries reached six percent in just a decade, while in SAARC, it has remained around five percent since its inception. 
  • A landmark achievement for BIMSTEC was the establishment of a permanent secretariat in Dhaka. Further, among the member countries, Myanmar’s and Nepal’s intra-BIMSTEC trade is very high.
  • Under BIMSTEC, cooperation against terrorism has been formalized under a Joint Working Group for Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime which has advanced cooperation in the critical areas of intelligence sharing, combating the financing of terrorism, drug trafficking and cooperation on countering radicalization.

Despite the many successes and promises of BIMSTEC, however, some challenges remain, like:

  • The infrequency of the BIMSTEC summits, the highest decision-making body of the organisation. In its 20 years of existence, the BIMSTEC summit has taken place only thrice. The secretariat faces a severe resource crunch, both in terms of money and manpower, which has adversely affected its performance.
  • Moreover, the delay in the adoption of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a framework that was agreed upon in 2004, fuels doubts about BIMSTEC’s efficacy.
  • The lack of leadership is also seen as a major drawback. In the past few years, this concern has been addressed as India has shown increased interest in the grouping. India’s initiatives have resulted in some important developments, including the setting up of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre in Bengaluru and the BIMSTEC Business Council.
  • Region lacks physical connectivity- The trilateral highway connecting India-Myanmar-Thailand has been a non-starter. Further, lack of good infrastructure has acted as a barrier to trade by raising cost and time.

To maintain the momentum and to strengthen BIMSTEC as a sustainable platform for regional cooperation, the following steps can be considered:

  • Consistency in the frequency of the summits to ensure regularity in decision-making as well as empowering BIMSTEC to be a platform for dispute resolution among member countries.
  • Regular interaction, exchanges, and coordination among ports of the BIMSTEC region will play a role in enlarging trade and commerce, as well as promoting coastal shipping.
  • Sharing land and maritime borders with BIMSTEC countries, India should expedite growth in connectivity (through road, rail, maritime and air) within BIMSTEC. For example, it should develop well-connected quality ports such as a deep-sea container terminal in Sri Lanka, in addition to the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.
  • Simultaneously, focusing on trade facilitation measures such as simplification and harmonization of trade procedures, setting regional single windows for custom clearance, recognition of custom transit documents, and proper coordination between border authorities will facilitate expansion of trade in BIMSTEC.


BIMSTEC provides the Bay of Bengal nations an opportunity to work together to create a common space for peace and development. With 22% of the world’s population and a GDP of $2.5 trillion, BIMSTEC can become one of the world’s strongest political and economic unions.

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