2022 GS2 Answer

Q. Do you think that BIMSTEC is a parallel organisation like the SAARC ? What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two ? How are Indian foreign policy objectives realized by forming this new organisation ?

Question from UPSC Mains 2022 GS2 Paper

Model Answer: 

BIMSTEC and SAARC: A Comparison

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) are both regional organizations aimed at fostering cooperation among member countries in different areas. While they may have some similarities, it would not be accurate to label BIMSTEC as a parallel organization to SAARC.


Geographical proximity: Both organizations comprise countries in the South and Southeast Asian regions, sharing common borders and regional interests.
Areas of cooperation: Both BIMSTEC and SAARC have a focus on promoting economic cooperation, technical collaboration, and regional connectivity among their member countries.
Shared challenges: Both organizations address common challenges in the region, such as poverty, environmental issues, and terrorism.


Membership: SAARC consists of eight South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Maldives), while BIMSTEC comprises seven countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand).
Focus and priorities: While SAARC is primarily focused on regional cooperation and development within South Asia, BIMSTEC has a broader focus, incorporating economic and technical cooperation between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Diplomatic challenges: SAARC has faced challenges in recent years, especially due to political tensions between India and Pakistan. These tensions have hindered progress and effective cooperation within the organization. In contrast, BIMSTEC has been relatively more successful in maintaining cordial relations among its member countries and achieving its objectives.

Indian foreign policy objectives and BIMSTEC:

India has played an essential role in the establishment and functioning of BIMSTEC. Forming and participating in BIMSTEC allows India to achieve its foreign policy objectives in the following ways:
Act East Policy: BIMSTEC complements India’s Act East Policy, which aims to strengthen economic and strategic ties with Southeast Asian countries. BIMSTEC provides a platform for India to engage with Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar and Thailand.
Regional Connectivity: BIMSTEC enables India to enhance regional connectivity, especially with Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, through infrastructure projects and improved cross-border transportation.
Economic Cooperation: BIMSTEC promotes regional economic cooperation, providing India opportunities for trade and investment in the Bay of Bengal region.
Security Cooperation: BIMSTEC allows India to engage in joint initiatives addressing regional security challenges, such as terrorism, human trafficking, and drug smuggling, among its member countries.
Alternative to SAARC: With the challenges faced by SAARC, BIMSTEC offers India an alternative platform to pursue regional cooperation and collaboration without the hindrance of political tensions with Pakistan.

In summary, while BIMSTEC and SAARC have similarities in their objectives and areas of cooperation, they are not parallel organizations. BIMSTEC offers India an opportunity to achieve its foreign policy objectives by fostering economic, strategic, and security ties with both South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

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