BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting: Basics Explained

The first-ever Foreign Ministers’ meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) began in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 17. India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was also present here and said in a tweet that areas of coordination challenges were discussed, including health and energy security.


The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.

The agenda of BIMSTEC was to promote economic cooperation and integration between the littoral and island countries of the Bay of Bengal and integrate the South and Southeast Asian economies; later broadened to include security and developmental considerations.

This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration. It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand. Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries. BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members. The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy.All seven countries have sustained average annual rates of growth between 3.4% and 7.5% from 2012 to 2016. A fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the bay every year.

The BIMSTEC Secretariat was established in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In 2016, India hosted the first-ever BRICS–BIMSTEC outreach leadership summit in Goa. They signed memorandums of understanding on technology transfer, cooperation of diplomatic academies, transnational crimes, and grid interconnection. In addition, BIMSTEC members  also sought support from the Asian Development Bank for their 10-year master plan on connectivity. global economic fallout, debt accumulation, inflation, and energy and food insecurity. The growing challenge of climate change has further added to these anxieties. As most of these challenges are transnational, regional partnerships have become necessary, even as issue-based minilateral collaborations are on the rise.

Perennial transnational challenges such as gun-running, maritime piracy, human trafficking, and other non-traditional security challenges make the Bay of Bengal region vulnerable. India and other members of BIMSTEC should  work towards creating an institutional architecture for BIMSTEC, it is important to keep members’ respective strengths and weaknesses in perspective.


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