The charter will give BIMSTEC the "international personality" and will also help lay out the basic institutional architecture through which the grouping will carry out the work.
New Delhi: At the Colombo Summit on March 30, Wednesday, the member states will adopt the much expected 'BIMSTEC Charter'. The charter will give this grouping the "international personality" and the forum a platform and a grand occasion to formally state its "purposes and principles". It will also help lay out the basic institutional architecture through which the grouping will carry out the work.
"This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the founding of BIMSTEC, and because the Charter is expected to be finalized, it is expected that developing the BIMSTEC platform further will be an important element in the Summit's context," those in the know of things say.
The theme of the Colombo Summit is "BIMSTEC-Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies, Healthy Peoples". The Summit on March 30 was preceded by the 18th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting" attended by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.
As is the normal practice at the end of the Summit meeting, current Chair Sri Lanka will hand over the chairmanship to Thailand. Dr Jaishankar on Tuesday assured Thailand of India's cooperation in taking the grouping to newer heights.
India's efforts to develop a regional cooperation platform centred on the Bay of Bengal countries began in June 1997 with the establishment of the 'BIST-EC' grouping (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). This grouping subsequently expanded to the present 'BIMSTEC' grouping following the admissions of Myanmar (December 1997). Notably, from a South Asian point of view, Nepal and Bhutan also joined the forum in February 2004. Needless to add, in the entire process, Pakistan has fallen 'isolated' in the context of South Asia.
Over the past 25 years of its existence, particularly over the last ten years, BIMSTEC has been making steady progress towards becoming a permanent and formalized multilateral grouping.
Analysts say while BIMSTEC member states appreciate the potential of this grouping and recognize that it has not achieved its full potential, they continue to expect India to take the lead in harnessing this grouping.
India's 'Act East,' 'Neighbourhood First' and 'Indo Pacific' strategies have reinforced this perception. In addition, Prime Minister Modi has taken initiatives on his part. India hosted a unique BRICS-BIMSTEC Leaders Retreat in Goa in 2016. He also invited BIMSTEC nation leaders to his swearing-in 2019.
"Prime Minister Modi has personally invested in helping the grouping achieve its full potential," a source said.
BIMSTEC comprises member states who are littoral to or dependent on the Bay of Bengal. It is, therefore, essentially a maritime domain, and that is why Marine Cooperation will always be an important area of focus for BIMSTEC cooperation.
India has been taking the lead, as it has the highest scientific and other capacities in this area.
The guiding principle for all BIMSTEC marine cooperation is how to help countries achieve their SDG 14 targets. According to experts, India leads the Security pillar of cooperation. Its focus is on establishing strong legal norms to combat terrorism, prevent violent extremism, and establish legal frameworks and cooperative mechanisms.