Just as the five BRICS nations concluded a fruitful summit at Goa over the weekend by assuring enhanced cooperation on several key aspects like economic cooperation, technology transfer and strategies for combating global terror, in another scenic resort in Goa, the leaders of the seven Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) were watching the BRICS developments closely.
The convergence of purpose and priorities between BRICS and BIMSTEC provided a perfect opportunity to:
- Frame economic and development partnerships;
- Shape ties in the fields of energy, agriculture, technology, fisheries, and culture;
- Structure trade, investment and commercial partnerships; and
- Pool resources to fight terrorism and transnational crime.
Together the 11 heads of nations posed for a photograph session, symbolizing the coming together of the Asian countries as a formidable bloc of nations which by cooperation and better business relationship can lead to the common objectives of poverty alleviation and economic parity between the developed and the developing world.
In his opening address at the BIMSTEC – BRICS plenary session, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the combined clout of the 11 nations and their ability to shape the global economy.
Modi outlined, "Together, we represent two thirds of humanity. And, we are joined by a common vision and commitment to peace, stability and development. We are also united by similar challenges and concerns that shape our domestic choices and international partnerships. India is privileged to belong to both these groups."
BIMSTEC may not have got off to a high flying start in its first decade, but comparatively has managed to stay afloat by avoiding political disputes. However, the seven-nation grouping of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, has floundered since for lack of funding. India’s thrust and interest in developing its 'Act East' policy has given the much needed fillip. The enhanced focus is leading to new projects on connectivity, building infrastructure and sharing resources, both inter-regionally as well as bilaterally.
The fact that the Modi government after coming to power has shifted Look East to Act East saw the BIMSTEC heads gather at Goa to find ways to synergize development. India has led the way by demonstrating building a tri-lateral highway to Cambodia, to help with port infrastructure in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and very recently rescued its ties with Nepal government by offering support set up hydel and road projects there.
The Goa BRICS BIMSTEC platform also helped many of the countries resolve or make efforts to discuss mutual issues and concerns. The need for developing better connectivity and communication between BIMSTEC nations was highlighted by the member nations.
Bangladesh President Sheikh Hasina said, "We are a developing economy that needs billions of dollars for development. We are technology oriented and are looking for FDI to tap the huge resources many of which are yet to be tapped and mapped."
Sheikh Hasina’s pitch in presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping was one of seeking investment and not one of seeking aid. Clearly, the objective of BIMSTEC-BRICS Outreach seems to have been achieved.
Like in his BRICS speeches, even in his opening remarks in the BIMSTEC plenary, Prime Minister Modi continued his veiled attacks on Pakistan. He said, "Unfortunately, this country in India's neighbourhood which embraces and radiates the darkness of terrorism. Terrorism has become its favorite child. And, the child in turn has come to define the fundamental character and nature of its parent."
"The time for condemning the state sponsored terrorism is long gone. It is time to stand up and act, and act decisively It is, therefore, imperative for BRICS and BIMSTEC to create a comprehensive response to secure our societies against the perpetrators of terror."
Bimstec succeeded in echoing India’s sentiment at the plenary as several countries agreed to share India’s views.