Efforts are underway to have the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) countries in New Delhi for the Republic Day celebrations next year, learns. we.
Besides India, the sub-regional group of seven countries includes Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. Bimstec executives attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in at the start of his second term in May 2019, but there have been leadership changes in some of those countries since then.
Sources said Indian express that South Block is in close contact with the leaders of these countries and their offices to confirm their availability. The thrills were sent through the “appropriate channels,” the sources said – and the Republic Day guest list will be announced once confirmations are received.
In accordance with the protocol, the invitation letter is sent only after confirmation of the availability of the foreign leader.
The invitation to be the main guest of the Republic Day parade is of great symbolic significance from the point of view of the Indian government. The choice of the main guest of New Delhi each year is dictated by a number of reasons – strategic and diplomatic concerns, commercial interests and international geopolitics.
India hopes Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa or his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepal, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering of Bhutan, Prime Minister Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, and Chairman of the Myanmar State Board, General Min Aung Hlaing, will attend the Republic Day celebrations.
This will be the first opportunity for Indian leaders to engage directly with General Min Aung Hlaing, who took power in February this year. In 2019, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar had different rulers. Bangladesh had sent President Mohammed Abdul Hamid to take Modi’s oath.
The sources warned, however, that with the Covid-19 pandemic not yet over, an element of uncertainty remains, and there is a possibility of last minute cancellations of plans.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had to cancel his visit to India for Republic Day celebrations this year due to the pandemic raging in his country. India did not have a main guest for Republic Day in January 2021.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was the main guest in 2020, and in 2019, following the failure of then-US President Donald Trump’s invitation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was invited as main guest.
Ten leaders of ASEAN countries attended Republic Day in 2018, and in previous years the main guests were the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2017), the President French François Hollande (2016) and US President Barack Obama. (2015).
New Delhi’s engagement with Bimstec grew out of the ashes of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). In October 2016, following the terrorist attack in Uri the previous month, India gave new impetus to rejuvenate the group that had then existed for nearly two decades, but had been largely ignored. Along with the BRICS summit in Goa, Modi hosted an outreach summit with Bimstec executives.
That year, some Bimstec countries backed New Delhi’s call to boycott the Saarc summit scheduled for Islamabad in November 2016. The summit was postponed and India claimed victory by isolating Pakistan, after to have accused this country of having perpetrated the attack on Uri.
Bimstec offered a regional platform where five of the eight Saar Member States could meet to discuss sub-regional cooperation. India had long felt that Saarc’s vast potential was underutilized and that opportunities were lost due to lack of response and / or Pakistan’s obstructionist approach.
India’s search for an alternative to the Saarc was evident at the 2014 Saarc summit in Kathmandu, where Modi said the opportunities must be realized “through or outside of SAARC” and “between all of us or some of us”. It was an important signal for Pakistan, as well as other Saar states.
Two years after the BRICS-Bimstec awareness summit and the retirement of Bimstec leaders, the fourth Bimstec summit was held in Kathmandu in September 2018. It was only the group’s fourth summit in 21 years, but the result was considered global – covering the field from the blue economy to the fight against terrorism.
The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world. More than a fifth (22%) of the world’s population lives in the seven surrounding countries, which have a combined GDP of nearly $ 2.7 trillion.
Bimstec’s seven countries were able to maintain average annual economic growth rates of between 3.4% and 7.5% from 2012 to 2016. The Bay of Bengal has vast untapped natural resources and a quarter of the world’s traded goods cross the bay every year.
Bimstec’s original consortium formed in 1997 included Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and later came to include Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. Two Bimstec nations, Thailand and Myanmar, are also part of Asean, and the Bay of Bengal cluster forms a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The Bay of Bengal, a funnel towards the Strait of Malacca, has established itself as the theater of an increasingly assertive China, anxious not to hinder its access to the Indian Ocean. Beijing has embarked on a massive campaign of financing and infrastructure development in South and Southeast Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative in almost all of Bimstec’s countries except India and Bhutan.
As China steps up submarine movements and vessel visits in the Indian Ocean, it is important for India to solidify its engagement with Bimstec countries as part of its broader Indo-Pacific strategy.