Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[op-ed snap] Green shoots of revival: on BIMSTEC summitop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BIMSTEC, Kathmandu declaration, Bangkok declaration

Mains level: Importance of BIMSTEC for India and areas of focus for its revival


BIMSTEC Summit 2018

  1. The road to the fourth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Kathmandu, Nepal was marked by scepticism and hope
  2. Grouping’s past performance has been modest in the previous 19 years and promising in the past two years
  3. On the positive side, the fact that the summit could be held was a success in itself as it had been delayed

Important decisions taken to revive BIMSTEC

  1. Work begins now on drafting a charter for BIMSTEC, which has functioned so far on the basis of the Bangkok Declaration of 1997, and outcomes of the past three summits and the Leaders’ Retreat in 2016
  2. A Permanent Working Committee will be set up to provide direction during the period between two summits and also to prepare the Rules of Procedure
  3. The Secretariat has been promised additional financial and human resources and enhancement of its role to coordinate, monitor and facilitate the grouping’s activities
  4. As the institution has been handicapped due to lack of financial muscle, the leaders took the bold decision to establish the BIMSTEC Development Fund
  5. A push to increase its visibility and stature in the international fora will also be made by BIMSTEC
  6. Recognising that 16 areas of cooperation represent too wide a spectrum, the BIMSTEC governments will make a serious endeavour to review, restructure and rationalise various sectors, identifying a few core areas

Groundwork achieved in the summit & what remains to be done

  1. Of at least six legal instruments awaiting finalisation, only one, the Memorandum of Understanding on Grid Interconnection, could be inked in Kathmandu
  2. Fourteen years after signing the framework agreement on the Free Trade Area (FTA), the leaders could only renew their “commitment to an early conclusion” of FTA negotiations
  3. The grouping had established its Energy Centre in 2009, but it was still struggling for the “early operationalisation” of the Centre

Various new forums established

  1. There are plans to revitalise the Business Forum and the Economic Forum
  2. Cooperation in the security domain has been widened with a new instrument added to the arsenal: a meeting of home ministers
  3. This will be in addition to annual meetings of national security advisers and the first meeting of army chiefs to be held this year in India
  4. There is a sound plan to establish forums for parliamentarians, universities, cultural organisations and the media community

Focus on connectivity

  1. India emphasised that the biggest opportunity is connectivity — trade connectivity, economic connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity
  2. The Kathmandu Declaration has spelt out a number of measures, old and new, to secure this objective
  3. But the Motor Vehicle Agreement and the Coastal Shipping Agreement would still need more time for finalisation

Way Forward

  1. The summit articulated a vision for the Bay of Bengal Region heading towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future
  2. The region is now widely viewed as a common space for security, connectivity and development
  3. BIMSTEC can become a dynamic, effective and result-oriented organisation if it focuses on not just to deliberate, but also to deliver

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