The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) made a slow beginning in the year 1997 and remained in the oblivion for more than one and half decade. Critics started ridiculing the arrangement as India’s desperate move to bring together a regional arrangement bypassing its South Asian nemesis Pakistan, and it is bound to fail like that of SAARC. Unfortunately, the developments around BIMSTEC provided circumstantial support to such criticism. Though there is no point in delving into the past but understanding the reasons for its non-performance for over 15 years would help us setting a right direction for BIMSTEC. Contrary to the generally held belief that it was inaction from Indian side that kept BIMSTEC non-functional, it was political instability and uncertainty in most BIMSTEC countries for most of the time, that hindered a dedicated effort at the highest level to this nascent arrangement that needed more attention and effort. One can see that with the region stabilising politically, BIMSTEC has started getting the required attention and some tangible progress is also visible. There has been for long a unanimity that BIMSTEC has great potential for the countries sharing the Bay of Bengal identity. What was lacking was collective effort towards the translation of the potential into a reality. At their meeting in Goa on 17 October 2016, the leaders declared, “We pledge to work collectively towards making BIMSTEC stronger, more effective, and result oriented.” Further its leaders “reaffirm(ed) that BIMSTEC has considerable potential for economic and social development through mutually beneficial cooperation in the identified priority areas. We pledge to work collectively towards making BIMSTEC stronger, more effective, and result oriented”. This is a boost in the sense that this time the leaders not only accepted the potential of the BIMSTEC initiative but also pledged to work towards strengthening it thorough collective endeavor. With the establishment of the Secretariat in Dhaka, following the 3rd Summit there has opened an opportunity to coordinate and direct the commitment and efforts of the member countries towards making the BIMSTEC effective and stronger. While the leaders have put “result oriented” approach as an objective, this can be used to make BIMSTEC effective and stronger. We at Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development (CSIRD) have argued for a result oriented approach for promoting BIMSTEC agenda since 2005. It is heartening to see that the leaders have endorsed such an approach and have urged for the development of a practical agenda.
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