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Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, housing 1.5 billion people and having a combined gross domestic product of $3.5 trillion (2018).[3][4] The BIMSTEC member states—Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Nepal and Bhutan [5]—are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.

Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.[3][6] A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation (c. 2018).

Leadership is rotated in alphabetical order of country names. The permanent secretariat is in Dhaka.


On 6 June 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).[7][8] Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). In 1998, Nepal became an observer. In February 2004, Nepal and Bhutan become full members.

On 31 July 2004, in the first Summit the grouping was renamed as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.[9]


Maldives Bangladesh Bhutan Nepal Sri Lanka India Myanmar Thailand Cambodia Laos Vietnam Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines Singapore Afghanistan Pakistan Turkmenistan Iran Azerbaijan Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Uzbekistan China Russia Turkey Japan Mongolia South Korea Bahrain Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Mekong–Ganga Cooperation Association of Southeast Asian Nations Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Turkic Council Economic Cooperation Organization Gulf Cooperation Council Asia Cooperation Dialogue

A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various Asian regional organisations vd

Current Secretary General of BIMSTEC is Ambassador Mohammad Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh and former Secretary General was Sumith Nakandala from Srilanka.


BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).[10]

Member nations

Countries Leader Position Head of government Head of state Population GDP (Nominal) World Bank SAARC
 Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina,

Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Abdul Hamid, President of Bangladesh 162,951,560 $314 bn
 Bhutan Prime minister Lotay Tshering,

Prime Minister of Bhutan

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan 797,765 $2.5 bn
 India Prime minister Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister of India

Ram Nath Kovind, President of India 1,324,171,354 $2700.0 bn
 Myanmar President Win Myint, President of Myanmar 52,885,223 $68.277 bn
   Nepal Prime minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal 28,982,771 $25.020 bn
 Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe,

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka 20,798,492 $80.4 bn
 Thailand Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X),

King of Thailand

68,863,514 $457.24 bn

BIMSTEC priority sectors

14 priority areas have been identified with the lead nations appointed to lead the effort:[3][6][11]

Priority Area Lead Country Centre Comments
Transport and communication India
Tourism India BIMSTEC Tourism Information Centre, Delhi
Counterterrorism and transnational crime India Four subgroups: Intelligence sharing – Sri Lanka (lead),
Terror financing – Thailand,
Legal – Myanmar,
Law enforcement and narcotics – Myanmar
Environment and disaster management India BIMSTEC Weather and Climate Centre, NOIDA
Energy India BIMSTEC Energy Centre, Bengaluru BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection MoU signed in 2014.[12][13]
Public Health Thailand BIMSTEC Network of Traditional Medicine in India
Agriculture Myanmar
Trade & Investment Bangladesh
Technology Sri Lanka
Fisheries Thailand
People-to-People Contact Thailand
Poverty Alleviation Nepal
Climate Change Bangladesh
Cultural Cooperation Bhutan 1200 ITEC scholarships by India

BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement

BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement (BFTAFA) has been signed by all member nations to stimulate trade and investment in the parties, and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in BIMSTEC at a higher level. Subsequently, the “Trade Negotiating Committee” (TNC) was set up, with Thailand as the permanent chair, to negotiate in areas of trade in goods and services, investment, economic co-operation, trade facilitations and technical assistance for LDCs. Once negotiation on trade in goods is completed, the TNC would then proceed with negotiation on trade in services and investment.[14]

BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement draft was discussed on 1 December 2017 at New Delhi, to facilitate coastal shipping within 20 nautical miles of the coastline in the region to boost trade between the member countries. Compared to the deep sea shipping, coastal ship require smaller vessels with lesser draft and involve lower costs. Once the agreement becomes operational after it is ratified, a lot of cargo movement between the member countries can be done through the cost effective, environment friendly and faster coastal shipping routes.[15]

Cooperation with Asian Development Bank (ADB)

ADB become a partner in 2005, to undertake the “BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study” (BTILS), which was completed in 2014.[16]


Third Summit at Naypyidaw, Myanmar

No. Date Host country Host city
1st 31 July 2004  Thailand Bangkok
2nd 13 November 2008  India New Delhi
3rd 4 March 2014  Myanmar Naypyidaw[17]
4th 30, 31 August 2018    Nepal Kathmandu[18]
5th 2022  Sri Lanka Colombo[2][19]


Current leaders of BIMSTEC

See also


  1. ^ “Nepal unlikely to host fourth ‘Bimstec’ summit this year”. Business Standard India. 3 June 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b “BIMSTEC summit ends with Oli presenting Kathmandu declaration”. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c BIMSTEC: Building bridges between South Asia & Southeast Asia, IndiaWrites, 2014.
  4. ^ BIMSTEC
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b “Energy”. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  7. ^ Haidar, Suhasini (15 October 2016). “BIMSTEC a sunny prospect in BRICS summit at Goa”. The Hindu. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  8. ^ “BRICS Summit 2016: BIMSTEC members have economic opportunities to share, said Narendra Modi”. The Economic Times. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  9. ^ See for a detailed historical account of the founding and evolution of BIST-EC and BIMST-EC e.g. Michael, Arndt (2013). India’s Foreign Policy and Regional Multilateralism (Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 145–163.
  10. ^ “Third BIMSTEC Summit Declaration”. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  11. ^ BIMSTC sectors
  12. ^ “India Cabinet Approves Signing of BIMSTEC Power Grid Pact | News | South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation”. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  13. ^ “Nepal to join BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection”. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study
  17. ^ “BIMSTEC Summit”. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  18. ^ “Nepal proposes dates for Bimstec Summit”. Business Standard India. 5 June 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  19. ^ “4th BIMSTEC Summit: Kathmandu Declaration adopted by Member States”. Retrieved 31 August 2018.

External links