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BIMSTEC CHARTER AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE



  May 27, 2024

BIMSTEC CHARTER AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE


What is BIMSTEC?
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization established in 1997. It includes seven member countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, and India. The organization aims to foster technical and economic cooperation among its members.

Recent Development:
- Charter Adoption: The first charter of BIMSTEC was adopted during the 5th summit of BIMSTEC leaders, which came into force on May 20, 2023.

- Legal Personality: With the charter in place, BIMSTEC has acquired a ‘legal personality,’ enabling it to engage in structured diplomatic dialogue with other organizations and countries.

Significance of the Charter:
- New Members and Observers: The charter allows BIMSTEC to accept new members and observers.

- Institutional Framework: Provides a legal and institutional framework for deeper integration and cooperation in the Bay of Bengal region.

India's Role:
- Commitment to Cooperation: India's External Affairs Minister highlighted that the charter reaffirms India's commitment to a prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable neighborhood.

- Policy Alignment: BIMSTEC aligns with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies, focusing on regional cooperation and development.

Historical Context:
- Formation Challenges: Since its formation, BIMSTEC faced difficulties in reaching a consensus among its member states on a common charter.

- Pandemic and Virtual Meetings: The leaders met virtually during the pandemic in March 2022 under Sri Lanka’s chairmanship to adopt the charter.

- Thailand's Chairmanship: Thailand took over the chair of BIMSTEC after the 5th leaders’ summit. Nepal ratified the charter, facilitating its enforcement.

Comparison with SAARC:
- SAARC's Stalled Status: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has been largely inactive, with its last summit held in 2014.

- Shift in Focus: India, under Prime Minister Modi, has shown a willingness to focus more on BIMSTEC, which aligns better with India’s regional policies.

- Nepal's Stance: Nepal does not see BIMSTEC as a replacement for SAARC and aims to reinvigorate SAARC while participating in BIMSTEC.

Regional Challenges:
- Bangladesh-Myanmar Tensions: Issues like the displacement of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh and Thailand have posed challenges for regional cooperation within BIMSTEC.

Conclusion:
The enforcement of the BIMSTEC charter marks a significant step towards structured regional cooperation, offering a platform for addressing common challenges and fostering economic and technical collaboration among the member states.


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