UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 7 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the achievements and concerns of BIMSTEC , with a way ahead.

Syllabus: GS-II International Relations

BIMSTEC:

  • June 6 marked the completion of 25 years since the 1997 Bangkok Declaration launched a modest grouping (of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand), with the acronym, BIST-EC.
    • Three countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar) joined it later to make it the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). 

Achievements:

  • BIMSTEC has several achievements to its credit.
    • It has crafted a new Charter for itself, spelling out the grouping’s vision, functions of its constituent parts, and has secured a legal personality.
    • It has prioritised the sectors of cooperation, reducing them from the unwieldy 14 to the more manageable seven, with each member-state serving as the lead country for the assigned sector.
    • It has, finally, taken measures to strengthen the Secretariat, although some members are yet to extend adequate personnel support to it.
    • Above all, its success lies in its survival through the turns and twists of internal tensions.
      • Rohingya refugees crisis and influx into Bangladesh, the result of oppression by the Myanmar military; the coup in Myanmar that led to its virtual boycott by a large segment of the international community; and the grave political and economic crisis afflicting Sri Lanka. 

Shortfalls:

  • A major failure relates to the continuing inability to produce a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) 18 years after the signing of the Framework Agreement.
    • Official sources concede that of the seven agreements needed to operationalise the FTA, only two are “ready” — a disappointing record.
  • The other disappointment is connectivity — in infrastructure (roads, railways, air, river, and coastal shipping links), energy, the digital and financial domain, and institutions that bring people closer together for trade, tourism and cultural exchanges.
    • Much of the connectivity established recently is the outcome of bilateral initiatives taken by India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to strengthen transport links.
    • Mega-projects aimed to improve connectivity between India and Myanmar (and Thailand) have been delayed inordinately.
  • The movement towards establishing the BIMSTEC Development Fund is minimal.
    • The grouping has talked about the Blue Economy but is yet to begin any work on it.
    • Business chambers and corporate leaders are yet to be engaged fully with the activities of BIMSTEC. 

Way Ahead:

  • An exciting destiny awaits it as it works to realise the vision of the Bay of Bengal Community (BOBC).
  • In this Indo-Pacific century, the BOBC has the potential to play a pivotal role, deepening linkages between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • It should accelerate the region’s economic development by collaborating with the newly minted Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). 

 



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