Do you think that BIMSTEC is a parallel organisation like the SAARC? What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two? How are Indian foreign policy objectives realized by forming this new organisation?

Sample Answer

Introduction

BIMSTEC is a parallel organisation to the SAARC in the sense that it includes members from similar Geography – India and its neighbouring countries –  a shared interest in regional prosperity.

Body

Similarities Between BIMSTEC and SAARC

MembershipBoth have members from India’s Neighbourhood including common members like – Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
ObjectiveBoth focus on regional economic prosperity, Security and People to People contact.  
IndiaBoth are crucial for India’s neighbourhood first policy owing to its Central position in terms of Geography and Economy.
Decision MakingConsensus driven.
CharterBoth have charters

Dissimilarities

SAARCBIMSTEC
MembershipIncludes South Asian Countries only.Includes countries linking South Asia with South East Asia.
Geo-PoliticsPakistan and Afghanistan pose challenges for India.All countries are in favourable terms with India
Economy and Trade relationsSAFTADoes not have a regional trade agreement.
FunctionalDysfunctional due to no summit since 2014 because of India – Pak rivalryRegular summits are held latest in 2022.
Contentious IssuesBilateral issues and contentious issues are explicitly out of its mandateNo such limitation under mandate

Importance of BIMSTEC for India’s Foreign Policy

  • Platform for regional cooperation amidst Stagnation of SAARC.
  • Connectivity & Trade: 
    • Better connectivity with BIMSTEC – Kaladan, IMT Highway, BBIN.
    • Huge economic potential – GDP of BIMSTEC countries being trillion 2.8 $.
  • Development of NE region with Improved trade and connectivity
  • Security crucial for dealing with insurgency in its Northeastern region
  • Strategic:
    • A platform to counter China in the Bay of Bengal region
    • Gateway to southeast Asia and key for “Act East policy”

Conclusion

Both the platforms are relevant to India’s strategic interests and can complement each other if SAARC becomes functional.

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