• Recently, a majority in the Lower House of Nepal supported the proposal seeking endorsement of the BIMSTEC Charter.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States (five from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand) lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal.

a. The region hosts 22% of the world population (more than 1.68 billion people), and the member states have a combined GDP of more than US$3.697 trillion/per year.

– It was initially founded as BIST-EC in 1997, with the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration, with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand as members.

a. It became BIMST-EC with the entry of Myanmar in late 1997, and eventually, it was named in its current form when Nepal and Bhutan became members in 2004.

– Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization. Six areas of focus under BIMSTEC are — trade, technology, energy, transport, climate change (added in 2008), tourism, and fisheries.

About the BIMSTEC Charter

  • It was signed and adopted during the Fifth BIMSTEC Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2022.
  • It provides a legal and institutional framework for BIMSTEC, aiming to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through the identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the agreed areas of cooperation and other areas that may be agreed upon by the Member States.
  • It reaffirms the commitment to the principles and purposes of BIMSTEC as enshrined in the Bangkok Declaration of 1997.

Significance of the BIMSTEC Charter

  • The adoption of the BIMSTEC Charter formalizes the grouping into an organization made up of member states that are littoral to, and dependent upon, the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Charter allows BIMSTEC to engage in external relations with non-member States, developmental partners, and regional as well as the UN and International Organisations.
  • It stresses the need for a fair, just, equitable, and transparent international order and reaffirms faith in multilateralism with the United Nations at the center and the rule-based international trading system.

BIMSTEC and India

  • Alignment with Foreign Policy: BIMSTEC aligns with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.
  • It provides a natural platform for India to foster greater regional cooperation in South and Southeast Asia.
  • Economic Integration: BIMSTEC is an important element in India’s strategy for economic cooperation with South East Asian countries.
  • The BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement, signed in 2004, aims to increase trade and economic integration among member countries.
  • Security Cooperation: India plays a significant role in BIMSTEC’s security cooperation. Under the new changes adopted in the summit, India has become the ‘security pillar’ of BIMSTEC.
  • It includes cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism and transnational crime.
  • Connectivity and Infrastructure Development: The BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity seeks to connect several major transport projects in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand and establish a shipping network across the Bay of Bengal.
  • It aims to benefit the littoral states as well as the Bay of Bengal-dependent states like Nepal and Bhutan.

Challenges Associated with BIMSTEC for India

  • Uneven Progress: Despite being in existence for over 25 years, the pace of cooperation within BIMSTEC has been somewhat uneven.
  • The progress across different sectors has been inconsistent, which has affected the overall effectiveness of the organization.
  • Regional Conflicts among member states: It can hamper the smooth functioning of BIMSTEC.
  • For instance, the Rohingya refugee crisis created tensions between Myanmar and Bangladesh, which affected the working of BIMSTEC.
  • Legal and Institutional Challenges: Finalising legal instruments for various initiatives, such as coastal shipping and road transport, can be time-consuming and complex.
  • These can slow down the progress towards stronger trade relations among the member countries.
  • Security Concerns: Terrorism remains a significant threat to peace and stability in the region.
  • While BIMSTEC has been working towards strengthening cooperation against terrorism, it continues to be a major challenge.


  • The BIMSTEC Charter represents a significant step forward in regional cooperation. It provides a robust framework for the organization to work towards a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable Bay of Bengal Region.
  • As BIMSTEC enters a new era with the adoption of its Charter, it is poised to play a crucial role in fostering regional cooperation and integration.