[Model Answer QP2022 GS2] Do you think that BIMSTEC is a parallel organisation like the SAARC? What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two? How are Indian foreign policy objectives realized by forming this new organisation?
The main objectives of SAARC are to place regional cooperation on a firm foundation, and further the cause of peace, progress and stability in the region whereas the main objectives of BIMSTEC are to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, technical and scientific fields.
BIMSTEC is not a parallel organisation like the SAARC
SAARC has progressed: Over the past 34 years, a whole range of mechanisms have evolved in areas such as agriculture, space research, remote sensing satellites (the South Asian satellite was launched by India recently).
SAARC is our window towards West Asia: Also, it is important to note that Pakistan is not the only country that gets disconnected if India moves away from SAARC to BIMSTEC. Afghanistan is also a country that gets affected. For the Look West policy to be successful, SAARC plays an important role.
South Asian Identity: The entire process of ‘regionalization’ of the South asian subcontinent has happened under the SAARC.
The South Asian region covers roughly three percent of the world’s total land area and is home to around 21 percent of the population. These countries, therefore, are closely tied in their socio-political state as they face similar threats and challenges. For example, most of the countries in the region have to deal with terrorism
BIMSTEC is a bridge between SAARC and ASEAN.
Similarities Between SAARC and BIMSTEC
Both are working for Regional Stability and Socio Economic development of Asia.
India which is geopolitically becoming significant in the global arena is common to both the groups. It can voice concerns of both these groups at the United Nations and several other forums.
Both are multilateral institutions seeking regional cooperation to overcome the divide between South and Southeast Asia.
Interference of China is common among all members of both the groups.
Dissimilarities Between SAARC and BIMSTEC
Member countries of BIMSTEC lack a common identity and history like the SAARC. The threats and vulnerabilities faced by south asia are relatively different from the south east.
SAARC is mostly focussed on regional stability whereas BIMSTEC is more about economic integration and progress of littoral countries of Bay of Bengal.
Member countries of BIMSTEC share reasonably friendly relations with one another whereas the SAARC members have perceptions of threat to one another and lack of trust among them.
BIMSTEC realising objectives of India’s Foreign Policy
Externally, three major policy initiatives guiding India’s current regional approach involve the BIMSTEC subregion–––the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the ‘Act East’ policy and the ‘Indo-Pacific’ construct.
India’s relation with BIMSTEC is in line with “Security and Growth for All (SAGAR)” in Indian Ocean.
Regional Integration: Both the groups will help integrate South Asia with South East Asia
SAARC and BIMSTEC are not Parallel organisations. Both need to complement one another if we want to realise India’s vision for Look West Policy and Act East policy and also for harboring regional stability in the whole of Asia.