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 South Asian and Southeast Asian nations, housing 1.73 billion people and having a combined gross domestic product of US$4.4 trillion (2022).[6][7] The BIMSTEC member states – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand[8] – are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
BIMSTEC (orthographic projection).svg
SecretariatDhaka, Bangladesh[1]
Official languageEnglish
• Chairmanship
 Sri Lanka (since September 2018)[2]
• Secretary General
Tenzin Lekphell
Establishment6 June 1997; 25 years ago (1997-06-06)
4,876,941 km2 (1,882,997 sq mi) (7th)
• 2020 estimate
• Density
353.37/km2 (915.2/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)estimate
• Total
US$15.08 trillion[5] (3rd)
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
$4.64 trillion[5] (4th)

Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.[6][9] A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation (c. 2018), also referred Similar to SAARC.

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


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).[10][11] 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 became 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.[12]


There are 14 main sectors of BIMSTEC along technological and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

  1. Trade & Investment
  2. Transport & Communication
  3. Energy
  4. Tourism
  5. Technology
  6. Fisheries
  7. Agriculture
  8. Public Health
  9. Poverty Alleviation
  10. Counter-Terrorism & Transnational Crime
  11. Environment & Disaster Management
  12. People-to-People Contact
  13. Cultural Cooperation
  14. Climate Change

Sectors 7 to 13 were added at the 8th Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka in 2005 while the 14th sector was added in 11th Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi in 2008.

Member nations are denoted as Lead Countries for each sector.

  • Provides cooperation to one another for the provision of training and research facilities in educational vocational and technical fields
  • Promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in economic, social, technical and scientific fields of common interest
  • Provides help to increase the socio-economic growth of the member countries

Permanent SecretariatEdit

The BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat at Dhaka was opened in 2014 and India contributes 32% of its expenditure.[6][13] The current Secretary General of the BIMSTEC is Ambassador Tenzin Lekphell from Bhutan and the former Secretary General was M Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh. And First Secretary General was Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka.


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

The BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of the BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).[14]

Member nationsEdit

Countries Head of state Head of government Chief executive Population Nominal GDP / US$billion[15] World Bank SAARC
  Bangladesh Abdul Hamid, President of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Prime Minister 169,356,251 419.237  Y  Y
  Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan Prime Minister 777,486 2.653  Y  Y
  India Droupadi Murmu, President of India Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India Prime Minister 1,407,563,842 3,534.743  Y  Y
  Myanmar Myint Swe, Acting President of Myanmar Min Aung Hlaing, Prime Minister of Myanmar Prime Minister[a] 53,798,084 69.262  Y  N
    Nepal Ram Chandra Poudel, President of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister of Nepal Prime Minister 30,034,989 36.315  Y  Y
  Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka President 21,773,441 81.934  Y  Y
  Thailand Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), King of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand Prime Minister 71,601,103 522.012  Y  N

Heads of the member nationsEdit

Leaders are either heads of state or heads of government, depending on which is constitutionally the chief executive of the nation's government.

BIMSTEC priority sectorsEdit

14 priority areas have been identified with the lead nations appointed to lead the effort:[6][9][16] The organisation has 15 priority areas for cooperation, including Trade & Investment, Transport & Communication, Energy, Tourism, Technology, Fisheries, Agriculture, Public Health, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-Terrorism & Transnational Crime, Environment & Disaster Management, People-to-People Contact, Cultural Cooperation, Climate Change and Blue Economy.

Priority Area Lead Country Centre Comments
Transport and communication   India
Tourism BIMSTEC Tourism Information Centre, Delhi
Counterterrorism and transnational crime Four subgroups: Intelligence sharing – Sri Lanka (lead),
Terror financing – Thailand,
Legal – Myanmar,
Law enforcement and narcotics –   Myanmar
Environment and disaster management BIMSTEC Weather and Climate Centre, Noida
Energy   Myanmar BIMSTEC Energy Centre, Bengaluru BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection MoU signed in 2014.[17][18]
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

In a virtual BIMSTEC Colombo summit which took place on March 30, 2022, decision was taken to reduce, re-constitute and reconstruct the number of sectors of co-operation from the unwieldy 14 to a more manageable 7.

  1. Trade, Investment and Development - Bangladesh
  2. Environment and Climate Change - Bhutan
  3. Security and Energy - India
  4. Agriculture and Food Security - Myanmar
  5. People-to-people Contact - Nepal
  6. Science, Technology and Innovation - Sri Lanka
  7. Connectivity - Thailand

BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework AgreementEdit

The 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 the BIMSTEC countries 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.[19]

The BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement draft was discussed on 1 December 2017 in 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.[20] The necessity for coastal shipping ecosystem and electricity grid interconnectivity, as two of the necessary components of the evolving shape of BIMSTEC.

On 7 and 8 November 2019, the first ever BIMSTEC Conclave of Ports summit was held in Visakhapatnam, India.[21] The main aims of this summit is providing a platform to strengthen maritime interaction, port-led connectivity initiatives and sharing best practices among member countries.

In 2022 summit saw the declaration of the Master Plan for Transport Connectivity that would provide a framework for regional and domestic connectivity,

Cooperation with Asian Development Bank (ADB)Edit

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) becomes a partner in 2005, to undertake the "BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study" (BTILS), which was completed in 2014.[22]

BIMSTEC SummitsEdit

Second Summit at New Delhi, India
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[23]
4th 30–31 August 2018     Nepal Kathmandu[24][2][25]
5th 30 March 2022   Sri Lanka Colombo (Virtual meeting)[26]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b The president is the constitutional chief executive, but Acting President Myint Swe has delegated his executive authority to military leader Min Aung Hlaing for the duration of an ongoing state of emergency.


  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". The Hindu. 31 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Tenzin Lekphell begins journey as BIMSTEC Secretary General". UNB. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  4. ^ "World Urbanization Prospects — Population Division — United Nations". Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects".
  6. ^ a b c d BIMSTEC: Building bridges between South Asia & Southeast Asia Archived 22 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, IndiaWrites, 2014.
  7. ^ BIMSTEC
  8. ^ "Regional economic integration in the Bay of Bengal". 25 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Energy". Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  10. ^ Haidar, Suhasini (15 October 2016). "BIMSTEC a sunny prospect in BRICS summit at Goa". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  11. ^ "BRICS Summit 2016: BIMSTEC members have economic opportunities to share, said Narendra Modi". The Economic Times. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Area of cooperation". Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Third BIMSTEC Summit Declaration". Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  15. ^ "World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019". International Monetary Fund. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  16. ^ BIMSTC sectors
  17. ^ "India Cabinet Approves Signing of BIMSTEC Power Grid Pact | News | South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Nepal to join BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Bimstec committee mulls free trade deal in Dhaka". 13 November 2018. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  20. ^ "BIMSTEC Member States discuss draft text of Coastal Shipping Agreement".
  21. ^ "First BIMSTEC Conclave of Ports, Vishakhapatnam (November 7-8, 2019)".
  22. ^ BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study
  23. ^ "BIMSTEC Summit". Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  24. ^ "Nepal proposes dates for Bimstec Summit". Business Standard India. 5 June 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  25. ^ "4th BIMSTEC Summit: Kathmandu Declaration adopted by Member States". 31 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  26. ^ "5th BIMSTEC Summit, Sri Lanka (March 30, 2022)". Retrieved 28 March 2022.

External linksEdit