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

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Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
SecretariatDhaka, Bangladesh[1]
Official languageEnglish
• Chairmanship
 Thailand (since March 2022)[2]
• Secretary General
 India (since 2023)[3]
Establishment6 June 1997; 26 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
Increase US$18.582 trillion[5] (3rd)
GDP (nominal)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $5.225 trillion[5] (4th)

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$5.2 trillion (2023).[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.

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), referred to as 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 Secretariat[edit]

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 Indra Mani Pandey from India.

No. Date Country Secretary General of the BIMSTEC
1 2014–2017  Sri Lanka Sumith Nakandala
2 2017–2020  Bangladesh M Shahidul Islam
3 2020–2023  Bhutan Tenzin Lekphell
4 2023–present  India Shri Indra Mani Pandey


The BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of the BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999,2005-2006),India(2000,2006-2008),Myanmar(2001-2002,2009-14),Sri Lanka(2002-2003,2018-2022),Thailand(2004-2005,2022-),Nepal(2015-18).[14]

Member nations[edit]

MaldivesBangladeshBhutanNepalSri LankaIndiaMyanmarThailandCambodiaLaosVietnamBruneiIndonesiaMalaysiaPhilippinesSingaporeAfghanistanPakistanTurkmenistanIranAzerbaijanKazakhstanUzbekistanKyrgyzstanTajikistanChinaRussiaTurkeyJapanMongoliaSouth KoreaBahrainKuwaitOmanQatarSaudi ArabiaUnited Arab EmiratesSouth Asian Association for Regional CooperationBay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic CooperationMekong–Ganga CooperationAssociation of Southeast Asian NationsShanghai Cooperation OrganisationOrganization of Turkic StatesEconomic Cooperation OrganizationGulf Cooperation CouncilAsia Cooperation Dialogue
A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various Asian regional organisations vde
Countries Head of state Head of government Population Nominal GDP / US$billion[15]
 Bangladesh Mohammed Shahabuddin, President of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh,(Chief executive) 169,356,251 419.237
 Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan,(Chief executive) 777,486 2.653
 India Droupadi Murmu, President of India Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India,(Chief executive) 1,407,563,842 3,534.743
 Myanmar Myint Swe, Acting President of Myanmar Min Aung Hlaing, Prime Minister of Myanmar,(Chief executive§[a]) 53,798,084 69.262
   Nepal Ram Chandra Poudel, President of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister of Nepal,(Chief executive) 29,164,578 36.315
 Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka,(Chief executive) Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka 21,773,441 81.934
 Thailand Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), King of Thailand Srettha Thavisin, Prime Minister of Thailand,(Chief executive) 71,601,103 522.012

Heads of the member nations[edit]

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 sectors[edit]

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 National Centres on Coordination in Traditional Medicine
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 Agreement[edit]

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 n. 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 Summits[edit]

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]


  • Coast shipping
  • Power grid interconnection
  • Regional disaster monitoring and warning system
  • Road and rail Look-East connectivity projects
  • MILEX-18:The first-ever BIMSTEC Multinational Military Field Training Exercise (MILEX-18) was held in Pune, India from September 10-16, 2018. The exercise was attended by all seven BIMSTEC member countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

The theme of the exercise was counter-terrorism in semi-urban terrain. The participating troops conducted a series of exercises, including search-and-cordon operations, search and destroy, and handling and neutralisation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They also participated in a validation exercise on the final day of the exercise.

The MILEX-18 was a major success and was hailed as a significant step towards increased military cooperation in the Bay of Bengal region. The exercise helped to improve interoperability between the participating forces and to share best practices in the field of counter-terrorism. It also helped to build trust and confidence among the BIMSTEC member countries.

The MILEX-18 was a major boost to the BIMSTEC security cooperation agenda. It is expected to pave the way for more such exercises in the future, which will help to further enhance the security cooperation between the BIMSTEC member countries.

In addition to the military exercises, the MILEX-18 also included a number of other activities, such as an Army Chiefs' Conclave and a seminar on counter-terrorism. The Army Chiefs' Conclave was an opportunity for the participating countries to discuss and share their views on regional security issues. The seminar on counter-terrorism provided a forum for the participants to learn about the latest trends in terrorism and to discuss ways to counter it.

The MILEX-18 was a landmark event in the history of BIMSTEC. It was a major step towards increased military cooperation in the Bay of Bengal region and it is expected to have a positive impact on regional security.

The following are some of the key outcomes of the MILEX-18:

Improved interoperability between the participating forces. Sharing of best practices in the field of counter-terrorism. Building of trust and confidence among the BIMSTEC member countries. Paving the way for more such exercises in the future. Boost to the BIMSTEC security cooperation agenda. The MILEX-18 was a major success and it is a positive sign for the future of BIMSTEC security cooperation. The exercise helped to build trust and confidence among the member countries and it is expected to further enhance their cooperation in the field of security.

See also[edit]


  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 "Thailand has assumed the chairmanship of BIMSTEC for 2022 – 2023 for prosperous, resilient and robust, and open Bay of Bengal region". 30 March 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  3. ^ "Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey assumes charge of BIMSTEC Secretary General". 5 January 2024. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  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". Archived from the original on 29 May 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  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. Archived from the original on 14 January 2017. 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 links[edit]