BIMSTEC: The Journey and The Way Ahead
Dr Sreeradha Datta, Centre Head & Senior Fellow, Neighbourhood Studies, VIF

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a sub-regional organisation straddling five member states from South Asia and two from Southeast Asia. In the larger context of the global developments in the Bay of Bengal and the Indo-Pacific, BIMSTEC has taken on a more distinct salience and collaborative endeavours would prove beneficial for all the member-states. While the lack of perceived progress within BIMSTEC has introduced fatigue and doubts as well as scepticism about its goal and ability to deliver, cooperation within BIMSTEC assumes paramount importance given the present state of international cross-border permeability. The pandemic has buttressed the need for BIMSTEC members to be on a common platform to address similar issues of security threats, traditional and non-traditional, within a complex politico socio-economic environment. The chapters highlight the sectors that need focus, the aspects that require greater attention and the issues that can provide common grounds to take the journey forward. This book has six distinct sections, beginning with a broad overview of Bay of Bengal and elaborating on the rational for the sub-regional organisation. The second section on cooperative sectors, includes chapters on technology and climate change and risk management mechanisms. The third section on social and cultural factors traces the roots of Buddhism and highlights issues of gender, poverty and media. The fourth section covers the scope for signing a Free Trade Agreement, Foreign Direct Investment and energy cooperation. The penultimate section focuses on security issues, including religious extremism and possible defence collaborations with the final section highlights the outstanding issues and the challenges that lies ahead, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Postscript summaries the salient points of all the chapters and offers specific prescriptions.

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