The BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) summit — the fourth such annual meet — this time held in Kathmandu, has re-stamped its success in sidestepping the South Asian grouping SAARC as a forum for regional cooperation. That this seven-nation grouping does not have Pakistan as part of it and by its geographical nature has not included China is in a sense a boost for India in the region. The grouping, comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal, accounts for 22 per cent of the global population and has a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.8 trillion. That India has consciously avoided a bossy, Big Brotherly attitude which small nations are wary of is as it should be to pander to good neighbourliness. It would now be interesting to see whether Pakistan would seek to revive SAARC by hosting the long-postponed meeting there with new prime minister Imran Khan playing host and whether India would join the meeting to try and make some sense of Indo-Pak relations.
Nepalese prime minister Oli said that collective wisdom, thought and vision on the goal of peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region was eloquently captured in the Kathmandu declaration. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed on establishing a BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection to enhance energy cooperation among the member-States in which India played the stellar role. There was a commitment made to by India to enhance digital technology cooperation. India’s concerns on terror also found expression in the joint declaration. All in all, it was an exercise in bonhomie and declaration for cooperation.