Twenty Years of BIMSTEC: Promoting Regional Cooperation and Integration in the Bay of Bengal Region

Dr. Prabir De

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The Bay of Bengal is an area growing in economic and strategic importance, derived from its position as the principal maritime connection between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and from the good economic prospects of many Bay of Bengal states. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) regional integration process has made substantial progress in recent years. The Bay of Bengal could become the key economic connection between East and South Asia and a potential zone for Asian economic growth. An overarching priority for the BIMSTEC Member States would, therefore, be to further strengthen the regional integration process. Today, BIMSTEC is celebrating 20 years of its establishment. In these two decades, BIMSTEC has progressed in regional cooperation and integration front, whereas, it, at the same time, has faced several new challenges. This book reviews the past and provides new strategies to help BIMSTEC achieving a new paradigm of integration. It primarily deals with the regional cooperation and integration issues, and assesses policy priorities, effectiveness, implementation imperatives and challenges. Each chapter in this book tries to capture essential features of the crosscutting issues and attempts to draw some policy implications. The subject of this book will be of special interests to policy planners, development organisations, academicians, researchers as well as potential investors.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organisation comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. This sub-regional organisation came into being on June 6, 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. The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries. BIMSTEC has established a permanent Secretariat at Dhaka on September 13, 2014. Headed by the Secretary General, BIMSTEC Secretariat’s basic function is to provide for greater efficiency in the coordination of BIMSTEC organs and for more effective implementation of BIMSTEC projects and activities. BIMSTEC Secretariat serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organisations. H.E. Mr. M. Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh is the current Secretary General of BIMSTEC. The Secretary General is assisted by Directors on deputation from the Member States.

Dr. Prabir De

Dr. Prabir De, is a Professor at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), and Head of the ASEAN-India Centre (AIC), RIS, New Delhi.

Contents Foreword v
Preface vii

List of Tables, Figures and Maps ix
List of Abbreviations
List of Contributors

1. Introduction
Prabir De
Part One: Cultural and Civilisational Linkages
2. Maritime Trade and Societal Transitions in the Extended Eastern Indian Ocean c. 900–1500
Kenneth R. Hall
3. Civilizational Linkages in the Bay of Bengal Region until 1800
Rila Mukherjee
4. Rejuvenating Cultural Linkages in Bay of Bengal Region
Himansu Prabha Ray
5. Culture: An Expression of Values
Lungtaen Gyatso
Part Two: Trade and Investment
6. Trade and Connectivity in the BIMSTEC Region: Questions of ‘Incremental Benefits’ for the Member Countries Khondaker Golam Moazzem and Marzuka Ahmad Radia 7. Trade and Investment in BIMSTEC Countries: Status,
Challenges and Possible Solutions
Sanjay Kumar Mangla and Prithviraj Nath
8. Myanmar as a Golden Gateway between the Bay of Bengal and the Heartland of Asia
Ko Ko Hlaing
Part Three: Connectivity
9. Connectivity in BIMSTEC
Rohan Samarajiva
10. BIMSTEC: Building Bridges, Promoting Connectivity
Kavita Iyengar
11. North-East of India and BIMSTEC: A Reality Check
C. Joshua Thomas and Deigracia Nongkynrih
12. Recent Developments in Nepal’s Trade Logistics: Implications for BIMSTEC Cooperation
Pushpa Raj Rajkarnikar
13. Measures to Harness India’s Blue Economy
Kapil Narula
Part Four: Emerging Challenges and the Way Forward
14. The Challenge of Building the Bay of Bengal as an Interconnected Region
David Brewster
15. Dynamics of the Bay of Bengal and the Sino-India “Cooperation Dilemma”
Zhu Cuiping
16. Ways to Strengthen Cooperation between BIMSTEC and IORA
Prabir De
17. Strengthening BIMSTEC Integration: The New Agenda
Prabir De and Suthiphand Chirathivat



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