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.
Similarities Between BIMSTEC and SAARC
|Membership||Both have members from India’s Neighbourhood including common members like – Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.|
|Objective||Both focus on regional economic prosperity, Security and People to People contact.|
|India||Both are crucial for India’s neighbourhood first policy owing to its Central position in terms of Geography and Economy.|
|Decision Making||Consensus driven.|
|Charter||Both have charters|
|Membership||Includes South Asian Countries only.||Includes countries linking South Asia with South East Asia.|
|Geo-Politics||Pakistan and Afghanistan pose challenges for India.||All countries are in favourable terms with India|
|Economy and Trade relations||SAFTA||Does not have a regional trade agreement.|
|Functional||Dysfunctional due to no summit since 2014 because of India – Pak rivalry||Regular summits are held latest in 2022.|
|Contentious Issues||Bilateral issues and contentious issues are explicitly out of its mandate||No 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
- A platform to counter China in the Bay of Bengal region
- Gateway to southeast Asia and key for “Act East policy”
Both the platforms are relevant to India’s strategic interests and can complement each other if SAARC becomes functional.