BIMSTEC: An Engine of Promoting Multilateralism in the Bay of Bengal?

S. M. Saifee Islam

Research Associate, The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.


From ancient times, the Bay of Bengal has been considered as a crucial participant in world trade and politics. Its historical significance as a crucial part of the old Indian Ocean maritime route and its current relevance as a critical component of the Indo-Pacific economic zone has made it an important regional actor. Despite this, the international world has not fully recognized the region’s economic potential, resulting in its underdevelopment. Not until 1997, when the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was founded, attempts were made to combat the region’s reputation as ‘incomplete’ and ‘inadequate’. From its formation, BIMSTEC has worked assiduously to advance regional multilateralism in every facet of collaboration. Throughout its 25 years of existence, BIMSTEC has surmounted several challenges and uncovered new paths for expansion. Yet, the resurgence of division and the emergence of new alliances in the Indo-Pacific region have dissuaded many significant organizations in the region. Thus, the rise of regionalism and multilateralism in the Bay of Bengal region now presents a new challenge. In modern international politics, the advent of powerful regional powers and many new entities has encouraged governments to adopt a “taking sides” strategy. In this scenario, BIMSTEC can function as a mediator for the parties’ harmonious cohabitation. BIMSTEC members may also take strength from one another during these difficult times. The study illuminates the measures used by BIMSTEC as well as the nations’ efforts to link and promote multilateralism in the area. The paper also emphasizes suggestions for improving multilateralism via BIMSTEC.

Keywords: Cooperation, Multilateralism, Regional, Trade, Development, Strategy, BIMSTEC.


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