BIMSTEC – Member Countries, Functions, Challenges, India’s role

Let’s decode BIMSTEC

BIMSTEC stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

A regional group of 7 nations lying adjacent to the Bay of Bengal to promote cooperation in the economic and social progress of the area.

  • Permanent secretariat: Dhaka, Bangladesh


  1. Bangladesh
  2. India
  3. Myanmar
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Thailand
  6. Bhutan
  7. Nepal



  • Promoting economic activities through improved connectivity.
  • Ensuring stability and sustainable development of the bay.
  • Improved cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as research and development, maritime security, etc.
  • To increase the strategic independence of the member countries.

Which country will host BIMSTEC Summit 2020?

The 5th edition of BIMSTEC Summit 2020 will be hosted in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

STATISTICS – What Numbers have to Say?


  • Population representation: 1.5 billion (22% of global population).
  • GDP representation: 2.7 trillion economies.
  • Global trade representation: about 25% of global trade passes through the Bay of Bengal.



  • Establishment- 6th June 1997 by Bangkok Declaration
  • Initially, it was known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand as members).


  • With the addition of Myanmar (1997), Nepal and Bhutan (2004), it is known as BIMSTEC (‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’)

DESCRIPTION – Let’s take a Deep Dive

Areas of cooperation

BIMSTEC has prioritized 14 areas, major of them are trade, tourism, technology, climate change, disaster management and countering terrorism.


India’s role in BIMSTEC

Acting as a driving force, India has invested in many projects and primarily focused on improving infrastructure and connectivity with member states.

Currently, India is the largest contributor to BIMSTEC.


Intending to strengthen economic ties, the Indian chamber of commerce has organized “BIMSTEC-2020” with the aim of promoting business among the member countries.

Importance of BIMSTEC for India

  • Development of northeastern states by improved connectivity.
  • Fulfilling key policies such as Act East Policy and Neighborhood First Policy.


  • Improved relations with member states to encounter china’s increasing influence in Asia (Belt and Road Initiative).


  • Alternative regional platform to SAARC: Strategic key to encounter unstable neighbourhood(Pakistan).


  • Push to India’s efforts for exploring the blue economy and maritime security.


  • Encountering terrorist activities, which acts as active hotspots from neighbouring international borders.


Act east policy: It is an extended strategic policy to upgrade relations with Asia specific countries to counter the influence of China in the Asian region.


Neighbourhood first policy: Improves ties with immediate neighbours of India for mutual development.

Major projects to improve connectivity


  1. Kaladan multimodal project- connects India to Myanmar.
  2. Asian trilateral highway- linking India and Thailand through Myanmar.
  3. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) for faster transportation.




  • The Biggest opportunity of BIMSTEC is Connectivity (People-to-People connectivity, Trade connectivity, Economic connectivity, Digital connectivity and Transport connectivity).


  • Tapping unexplored opportunities, linking and developing ports can boost the hampered land connectivity via maritime routes.


  • Sustainable development with everyone’s cooperation


  • Political and regional stability by creating peace and security in the area.


  • Boosting of trade opportunities by investments and healthy competition.


  • Proper utilization of resources by coordinated research and development.




  • Handling the impression that BIMSTEC is an Indian dominated organization.


  • Lack of funds is a hindrance to BIMSTEC development.


  • Issues between member states may hamper the work efficiency


  • Balancing power with china, who also wants to be a part of BIMSTEC


  • Inconsistent meetings and lack of coordination among members


  • Formation of subdivisions in the group reduces work progress


  • Winning the confidence of pro-china and pro-Pakistan countries


  • Uneven connectivity between group members

What can be done

  • Making social and religious circuits, for the active flow of culture and economy.


  • Revised policies and free trade agreements to boost FDI culture.


  • Setting up of regional centers for improved cooperation in areas like research and development and sharing data among member countries.


  • Establishing fund centers under the umbrella of big organizations like the World Bank and the Asian development bank.


BIMSTEC has shown significant progress in the global economy in the last two decades. But the connectivity and cross borders investments are at low, which can be boosted by improved infrastructure and free trade agreements.

With everyone’s cooperation BIMSTEC can act as a think tank for the region. Joining hands together, the challenges such as poverty, terrorism and climate change can be tackled easily.

A stronger BIMSTEC reflects more stable and flourished Asia.

Author: Priyanka Mahala

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