POST TIME: 1 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Bimstec potentials still remain unrealised

Bimstec potentials still remain unrealised

At the Bimstec’s Nepal summit, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s proposal for categorising 14 sectors into several clusters to make them more synergized in helping achieve an early dividend from this forum is worth taking into serious account by the other states. She suggested that these clusters could be three such as sustainable development, security and stability, and people-to-people contact. This clustering would make easier handling of the sectors.

Against the backdrop of a rather inactive Saarc, Bimstec should act robustly for the development of this region. In the 21 years of its existence, this regional forum comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand has made only some modest gains. It should be noted here that the history of regional cooperation in this part of the world is not very colourful like that of the European Union in Europe. Economically speaking, nothing significant could be achieved by the countries of South Asia and South East Asia.

When Saarc was founded in 1985, it raised great hope among the member states that this would usher in a new era of mutual support. But the rivalry between the two nuclear-armed nations, India and Pakistan, has failed the Saarc to deliver on that promise. Now through Bimstec (the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), its member states could go a long way to help each other particularly in the economic sphere as there is no chance of such rivalry.

Not only in trade and investment, Bimstec members, as Bangladesh prime minister has pointed out in Nepal, can face together such problem as terrorism, transnational crime and climate change. In technological field also, the member states can help each other. In fact, at the present summit of Bimstec in Nepal, she very positively focused on these issues through her clustering proposal. Cooperation among the member countries can be expanded through creation of Free Trade Area, investment and energy cooperation, enhancing people-to-people contact and funding mechanism. A Bimstec Electricity Grid, as Sheikh Hasina has pointed out, could go a long way to improve the power condition among the member countries.    

Her speech at the Nepal summit once again proves that Bangladesh is very serious about the potentials of Bimstec as a regional organisation. Bimstec has achieved nothing significant as yet on the possibility of free trade and investment. Since Asian Development Bank is Bimstec’s development partner, the regional organisation can harness its potentials of economic cooperation if the member states genuinely want to do so. It is time for action now.