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BIMSTEC rises to meet post-Covid challenge with new roadmap for growth

All eyes on the forthcoming BIMSTEC meeting in Sri Lanka

The forthcoming BIMSTEC meeting to be held on March 30 in Sri Lanka will be crucial as the world now starts to prepare for laying the roadmap for economic recovery in the post Covid phase.

Analysts told India Narrative that the Covid pandemic has further brought out the need for regional cooperation and boosting connectivity. As the BIMSTEC members are expected to give their nod to the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity allowing seamless multimodal logistics in the region, there would be scrutiny over how they decide to deal with Myanmar.

Besides, the group is also expected to concretise the BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and the Motor Vehicles Agreement.

BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprises seven member countries – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka in South Asia and Myanmar and Thailand in Southeast Asia. The region is home to about 1.5 billion people — 22 per cent of the world’s population. While the regional bloc has been a slow starter– it started in 1997—it was somewhat gained momentum in 2018.

Also read: BBIN Quad must step up economic integration–think tank

While economic challenges have multiplied for all nations, Sri Lanka and Nepal have been particularly hit by the pandemic. Sri Lanka has declared an economic emergency.

“The Covid pandemic has highlighted the need to expand regional cooperation, especially countries that share borders. It has given us a chance to revisit our regional strategy.. how effectively we fight back in the post pandemic phase will largely depend on our cooperation and even flexibility,” Nazneen Ahmed, Country Economist at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh told India Narrative.

Ahmed said that cooperation and sharing of knowledge and technology will be critical among the member states as they deal with the aftermath of the pandemic. "We must shed our rigidities and move towards making the bloc a success," she said.  

East West Center in a study said that strengthening regional cooperation in the public health sector and related services, enhancement of trade facilitation to augment supply chain resilience, and restoration of economic growth will be the key focus in the post pandemic phase.

"Regional integration can lead to substantial economic gains for the Bay of Bengal region, particularly in the post Covid 19 period,” the study said.