The 5th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit will begin today in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Leaders from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan will participate, some virtually and others in person. The first meeting since 2018, today’s Summit will focus on the official adoption of the BIMSTEC Charter and aims to solidify the bloc’s regional cooperation through trade and transport connectivity.
While India prefers to keep its distance to avoid promoting Myanmar’s military junta, it has recently worked to improve ties with and invest alongside autocracies elsewhere, like in Central Asia. Indian PM Narendra Modi’s virtual and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s in-person attendance further showcases India’s willingness to elevate regional geopolitics above democratic and governmental differences.
Expect member states to formally adopt the BIMSTEC Charter and transport connectivity initiative which will offer Myanmar’s junta immediate regional diplomatic recognition and, in the medium-term, position India to combat Chinese regional investments through increased economic cooperation with its neighbors. In the long-term, BIMSTEC will likely replace the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as the major regional power bloc, which has disintegrated due to the Pakistan-Indian rivalry and reemergence of the Taliban.
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Scott is an Analyst at Foreign Brief and a Project Manager at Management Systems International (MSI) managing operations for overseas contracts in their Africa and Eastern Europe (EE) Division. Previously, he was a Program Associate at ABA ROLI supporting their East Africa program unit. His specific interests are geopolitics, regional conflict and governance, and political and economic developments in Sub-Saharan Africa.