With the future of the Saarc uncertain, India is now set to add new momentum to the Bimstec and work with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to boost four-nation cooperation.
As India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan decided to boycott the 19th summit of the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) that was proposed to be hosted by Pakistan on November 9 and 10, uncertainty now looms large over the fate of the eight nation bloc. New Delhi is now looking for other options to step up regional and sub-regional cooperation and is set to add a new momentum to the Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) next month, apart from stepping up quadrilateral cooperation among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to host the leaders of the Bimstec nations in Goa on October 16 on the sidelines of the 8th summit of the BRICS — a bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Sources in New Delhi told DH that the Saarc’s fate had looked uncertain even before New Delhi had decided to opt out to protest export of terror from Pakistan, which had been blocking most of the initiatives by the bloc to boost connectivity and counter-terrorism cooperation.
The Bimstec and the yet-to-be-formalised BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) appeared to be workable alternatives for New Delhi to step up regional and sub-regional cooperation, added the sources. The Bimstec came into existence in 1997 and now comprises India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
The BRICS summit, which is being hosted by India, will have an outreach meeting with Bimstec leaders. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Myanmar’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Aung Sang Suu Kyi are among the Bimstec leaders who are likely to attend the meeting.