DAILY MAINS ANSWER WRITING CHALLENGE
Practice Question 3
Q) “As India’s interests move beyond its borders, the fixation with South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood can no longer serve as a useful analytical framework in understanding and explaining India’s regional diplomacy.” Critically discuss.
India shares both land and maritime boundaries with BIMSTEC members (land borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal) and (maritime boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand). The re-imagining of the Bay of Bengal sub-region through the BIMSTEC forum has allowed a greater role for the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. This also means that the sub-regional grouping holds an important place in the success of the policy.
BIMSTEC emerged out of the necessities of the member countries. India was motivated to join BIMSTEC as it wanted to enhance its connectivity with ASEAN countries: a major component of its Look East Policy, now rechristened ‘Act East’ policy. For Thailand, BIMSTEC helps achieve the country’s Look West Policy. BIMSTEC also helps smaller countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to develop connectivity with ASEAN countries, the hub of major economic activities globally.
Despite the many successes of BIMSTEC, however, some concerns remain. In its 20 years of existence, the BIMSTEC summit has taken place only thrice. This calls into question the seriousness of the member countries. Moreover, the delay in the adoption of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a framework that was agreed upon in 2004, fuels doubts about BIMSTEC’s efficacy.
In tandem with its national interest, India must keep all its avenues open and must have a comprehensive approach to promote cooperation amongst its neighbours. The success of BIMSTEC does not render SAARC pointless; it only adds a new chapter in regional cooperation in South Asia.