The countries under Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have enormous scopes to exploit inter-regional resources and potentials for attaining significant economic uplift.
Ambassador M Shahidul Islam, secretary general of BIMSTEC, told Bangladesh Post on Saturday that “I see a beacon of hope here as the BIMSTEC region has a huge amount of natural, water and human resources.”
He said the BIMSTEC aims at greater connectivity in bloc highlighting institutional development within the group, and coordination between BIMSTEC and other regional blocs like SAARC and ASEAN in establishing inter-regional connectivity through Free Trade Areas (FTA).
He hoped that BIMSTEC will bring economic prosperity for the region.
BIMSTEC, launched 21 years ago to forge greater economic ties among countries around the Bay of Bengal, is now showing vigour in seeking greater integration and exposure to investments.
The Bay of Bengal region continues to rise as a strategic and economic hub.
Although BIMSTEC has achieved modest progress it evolved over the years, withstanding all odds, including disinterest, lack of commitment, political tensions, political instability and the varied expectations and dissimilar development status of member countries.
BIMSTEC initially focused on six priority areas, but it has now expanded the number to 14. They are trade and investment, transport and communication, energy, tourism, technology, fisheries, agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, environment and natural disaster management, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change.
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told Bangladesh Post that BIMSTEC is increasingly becoming visible as an important platform for regional cooperation between South Asia and South East Asian countries, particularly under the changing political landscape of South Asia.
However, given the changing dynamics of demand of member countries for ensuring higher incremental benefits, BIMSTEC should put more emphasis on non-conventional areas for cooperation such as cross-border rail, road and water connectivity, energy cooperation, tourism, services etc.
Muntakim Ashraf, vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) told Bangladesh Post that BIMSTEC should strive harder to become an effective instrument of “economic growth and social progress” and “active collaboration and mutual assistance” on issues that promote the common interest of member states “in the economic, social, technical and scientific fields”.
There are several other measures for BIMSTEC to consider seriously. It must seek closer engagement of business leaders of the member states in its mission to deepen and expand economic cooperation; and this is beginning to happen.
BIMSTEC was established in 1997 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand as members.
Zahid Hossain Biplob