Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his greetings on the occasion of 24th BIMSTEC Day on June 6, 2021. In his message, the Prime Minister acknowledged the progress made by the grouping on several fronts in recent years. He stressed on the need to continue to work together in the fight against the pandemic.
PM Modi said BIMSTEC Day has been marked amidst a difficult phase of the COVID pandemic. It is an unprecedented challenge and a testing time for all.
Prime Minister Modi also appreciated the enhanced regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework which has intensified substantially in recent years. He emphasized on the progress that has been made on several fronts including the finalization of the BIMSTEC master plan for transport connectivity and the text of the BIMSTEC Charter.
On BIMSTEC day, the External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S Jaishankar also mentioned the enormous potential of Bay of Bengal cooperation. He said it helps to bridge South and South East Asia and also contributes to Act East and Indo-Pacific policies.
The heads of the member states of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have pledged to work together in the fight against the COVID-19.
They also prayed for peace and prosperity of the region in separate messages issued ahead of the 24th BIMSTEC Day. Like 2020, this year also no event was held due to the pandemic.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional multilateral organisation consisting of seven South and South-East Asian countries. These countries are- India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar.
With a total gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion dollars, the BIMSTEC region is home to about 1.5 billion people or around 22% of the worldwide population. Despite the global financial crisis, BIMSTEC member states have been able to maintain an average growth rate of 6.5 % over the previous five years.
Why is BIMSTEC important for India?
India has been doing everything to bolster its bilateral relationships with its eastern neighbours after revitalising its ‘Look East’ strategy to ‘Act East’ in 2014. India began looking at the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was stagnating, restricting the scope of India’s expanding economic goals.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, BIMSTEC has emerged as a potential sub-regional grouping with growing strategic and economic interests of member states as well as the international community in the Bay of Bengal region over the years.
Areas of co-operation
Major areas of co-operation are -Trade and investment, technology, energy, transportation, communication, tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural cooperation, disaster management, public health, poverty alleviation and climate change etc.
Under India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative, India sent the life-saving doses to BIMSTEC neighbours on priority. The supply has been sent to five BIMSTEC Nations -Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. India has sent a lot of doses as gifts to these nations doing justice to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.