Despite of its promising prospects, BIMSTEC seems to be struggling to emerge as natural choice for strengthening integration between South Asia and Southeast Asia in last 20 years."" Critically discuss.
The BIMSTEC is sub-regional grouping comprising of seven countries of South Asia- India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and South East Asia- Myanmar, Thailand It comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and brings together 1.5 billion people or 21% of the world population and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over $2.5 trillion.. BIMSTEC aims to encourage cooperation at the multilateral level among member countries from two different regions of Asia and does not work as substitute to SAARC.
- BIMSTEC is a natural choice for strengthening India’s footprints in the neighbourhood under its Act East Policy as it includes Thailand and Myanmar both ASEAN member
- Absence of Pakistan, makes it easier for India to have meaningful discussion and engagement with neighbours.
- Bimstec more naturally lends itself to regional integration physical connectivity as well as economic cooperation. Therefore, Bimstec seems an attractive alternative to Saarc.
- India and other South Asian nations can have closer cooperation with the economically prospering region of Southeast Asia.
- BIMSTEC has huge economic potential given the region’s economic dynamism, huge markets and rich natural resources
Despite its promise it has remained low profile for following factors
- Members of BIMSTEC have acquired memberships in various other regional/sub-regional organisations which also promote cooperation at different levels.
- Lack of political will has also limited the prospects of BIMSTEC. Countries like Thailand focus more on groups like ASEAN.
- Region lacks physical connectivity. The tri-lateral highway connecting India-Myanmar-Thailand has been a non-starter.
- Growth of intra-regional investment is negligible.
- Lack of good infrastructure has acted as barrier to trade by raising cost and time.
In recent years India has been making efforts to streamline BIMSTEC in its regional foreign policy by holding an outreach session of the BIMSTEC leaders withthe five leading emerging economies of BRICS in Goa. First BIMSTEC Disaster management exercise was conducted by NDRF in New Delhi
In order to harness potential of BIMSTEC steps like signing FTA in goods and services, improving physical and digital connectivity by building ports, economic corridors etc need to be taken. India which is one of the fastest growing economy and rising global power needs play an important role.
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