A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) sponsored report has made far-reaching recommendations for the "rejuvenation" of the 20-year-old BIMSTEC - the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation that comprises Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal - and develop it as a "bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia" by strengthening infrastructure and connectivity linkages between them.
It is deepening regional transport connectivity, facilitating cross-border trade, investment and tourism, protecting the environment and promoting sustainable use of shared natural resources in the BIMSTEC economies centred around the Bay of Bengal, said the report by a Core Group of Experts that was chaired by Rajiv Bhatia, former Ambassador to Myanmar, Canada, South Africa and Kenya.
The recommendations are set forth in a report titled ‘Reinvigorating BIMSTEC: An Industry Vision for the Next Decade’.
The report has recommended strategic thrusts in select priority sectors to make BIMSTEC a result-oriented, effective and influential institution. Concluding negotiations for free trade agreements and trade facilitation, strengthening infrastructure linkages, deepening regional transport connectivity, facilitating cross-border trade and investment, and tourism, enhancing private sector participation and competitiveness, supporting regional power trading, developing human resources through mutual cooperation, protecting the environment and promoting sustainable use of shared natural resources, creating the Bay of Bengal Community (BoBC) and, promoting all-round cooperation in 'soft power' areas are some of the measures suggested to achieve the goal.
The report suggests that FICCI may consider convening a Regional Business Conference of CEOs and experts from BIMSTEC countries to discuss and develop a wider consensus on the core group's recommendations.
On the business-industry dimension, the report makes the following specific suggestions:
Government-business interface in the functioning of BIMSTEC has remained weak and ineffective. It needs to be strengthened and institutionalised to enable it to produce better results. The report recommends, on the lines of the relevant mechanism in BRICS, a new BIMSTEC Business Council may be established and operationalised as soon as possible. FICCI may serve as the Secretariat for the proposed BIMSTEC Business Council
Industry strongly favours the proposal to craft, develop and promote the 'BIMSTEC Brand.' Branding is a proven marketing tool - whether for a product, service, project or institution. It is only by widening and deepening the field of awareness about BIMSTEC as the premier regional grouping that ample support of business enterprises as well as people at large can be created and sustained
BIMSTEC should claim credit for completed and ongoing projects that have been identified and endorsed by the member-governments, and publicise them as the organisation's achievements. Several projects in the BIMSTEC Transport and Logistics Study have been implemented (some with ADB support), but were not recognised as BIMSTEC's achievements
Launching of 'BIMSTEC Business Visa', to be made available through e-channel, should be given a high priority as a way to smoothen business travel and, therefore, transactions.
The report also dwells on the Indo-Pacific perspective, the required policy focus by BIMSTEC member-nations, institutional reforms and creation of a fund to finance development projects.