BCIM: A Regional Multilateral Initiative
BCIM Forum for Regional Cooperation was started as an initiative of the provincial government of Yunnan, China in 1998 through exploratory meetings with academic institutions of other three countries. The inaugural BCIM Forum meeting was held in Kunming in 1999 and the twelfth meeting was held in Myanmar in February 2015. It was meant to be an initiative of regional cooperation that would boost economic relations and cultural communication on one hand, and enhance connectivity through trade, transport and tourism, on the other. Its composition was unique as it could be regarded as Inter-regional (link between South, South East and East Asia), Regional (sharing common features and development objectives), as well as Sub-regional (involves sub-regions of India and China). Originally conceived as a forum for track two research and academic exploration, it went on to get increasing support of track one and eventually culminated into the proposal of BCIM Economic Corridor. Proposal to create an Economic Corridor linking Kolkata with Kunming through Bangladesh and northern Myanmar was rooted in the deliberations of the Track II BCIM Forum for Regional Cooperation, founded in 1999.
Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) are located in the same neighborhood and share commonalities in terms of history and culture. The BCIM region covers 40% of the world population, 13% of world GDP and 10% of the world’s surface area. It is composed of areas of relative underdevelopment, particularly the landlocked south western part of China and India’s north eastern states. Establishment of the BCIM-EC promises huge developmental gains by bringing together two Least Developed Countries, and with two largest and fastest growing economies. Aims to address underdevelopment through trans-national connectivity, economic integration and cooperation, and people-to-people linkages. Enhanced connectivity expected to stimulate trade and encourage cross-border production networks, investment flows, optimal use of natural resources and labour, skill development and, most importantly, exchange of ideas and knowledge. Its unique composition and attributes make it imperative for the BCIM-EC to deliver an equitable outcome that is demonstratively beneficial to all the participating countries.
Part of the once-thriving southern silk route, BCIM countries are characterized by ethnic affinities, Himalayan ecologies, shared level of relative deprivation, and are often conceptualized as a cultural region. From the ancient period, interaction in this region has had the civilizational framework at its foundation. Such a framework holds that interaction in this region has two important components, namely cultural exchange and trade ties, which have frequently influenced each other, often becoming a shared experience.