The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional international organization comprising seven Member States. The Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal, constituting a regional unity. The BIMSTEC Member States include five South Asia nations: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and two Southeast Asia countries: Myanmar and Thailand.

Overview of BIMSTEC

Establishment6 June 1997
SecretariatDhaka (Bangladesh)
Member countries1. Bangladesh
2. Bhutan
3. India
4. Myanmar
5. Nepal
6. Sri Lanka
7. Thailand
Official languageEnglish

BIMSTEC – Background

BIMSTEC was established on 6 June 1997 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration.

Initially, the BIMSTEC was known as BIST-EC, having four Member States, including Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. On 6 June 1997, the representatives of the Governments of these four Member States came together in Bangkok (Thailand). They signed the “Declaration on the Establishment of the Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIST-EC)“. The main aim of this regional group was the promotion of economic cooperation among countries bordering the Bay of Bengal.

On 22 December 1997, with the inclusion of Myanmar, the group was renamed BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation). In 1998, Nepal became an observer State.

In February 2004, Bhutan and Nepal became full members of the grouping. During the First Summit in Bangkok on 31 July 2004, the grouping was renamed BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).


SummitDateHost CityHost Country
1st31 July 2004BangkokThailand
2nd13 November 2008New DelhiIndia
3rd4 March 2014NaypyidawMyanmar
4th30-31 August 2018KathmanduNepal
5th30 March 2022ColomboSri Lanka

BIMSTEC Secretariat

During the third BIMSTEC Summit in Naypyidaw (Myanmar) in March 2014, a Memorandum of Association was signed for the formation of the BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat. Following this decision, the BIMSTEC Secretariat was opened in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 2014, inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, on 13 September 2014.

The BIMSTEC Secretariat consists of the Secretary-General, Directors and other staff as may be required and approved by the Member countries.

The Secretary-General acts as the Head of the Secretariat. The BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting appoints the Secretary-General of BIMSTEC, upon the recommendation of the Senior Official s Meeting, for a non-renewable term of office of three years. The Secretary-General shall be of Ambassadorial rank.

Chairmanship of BIMSTEC

The BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of BIMSTEC rotates according to the alphabetical order of the English names of the Member States. The changeover of the Chairmanship takes place during a BIMSTEC Summit Meeting, whereby the Member State chairing the BIMSTEC hosts the Summit and hands over the Chairmanship to the Member State next in alphabetical order.

  • The Member State assuming the Chairmanship of BIMSTEC shall chair:
    • BIMSTEC Summit;
    • BIMSTEC Ministerial Meetings;
    • BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meetings;
    • BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee.

Institutional Mechanisms of BIMSTEC


The BIMSTEC Summit comprises the Heads of State or Government of the Member States. It is the supreme decision-making body in BIMSTEC. It is envisaged that BIMSTEC Summit meetings shall be held once every two years, preceded by the Ministerial Meeting. The Summit shall be hosted by the Member State holding the BIMSTEC Chairmanship. The BIMSTEC Summit has the following powers and functions:

  • To provide policy guidance and decides on the key issues related to the realization of the purposes of BIMSTEC, important matters of interest to Member Countries and all issues referred to it by the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting and Sectoral Ministerial Bodies.
  • To decide on the application for admission of new Member States and Observers.
  • To authorise the formation and dissolution of Sectoral Ministerial Bodies and BIMSTEC Centres.
  • To address emergencies affecting the BIMSTEC by taking appropriate measures.

The BIMSTEC Chairman may, at his own initiative or the request of the Member State, convene a Special Summit to address an important issue related to the interest of BIMSTEC with the concurrence of all Member States.

All decisions of the BIMSTEC Summit Meetings shall be made based on consensus.

BIMSTEC Ministerial Meetings

The Ministerial Meeting includes the Ministers dealing with foreign relations of the Member States. It shall be held annually, preceded by the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM). The BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting is hosted by the Member State holding the Chairmanship of BIMSTEC. Following are the powers and functions of Ministerial Meetings:

  • To coordinate overall BIMSTEC cooperation.
  • To prepare for the BIMSTEC Summit.
  • To coordinate the implementation of agreements and decisions of the BIMSTEC Summit.
  • To coordinate with the Sectoral Ministerial Bodies in order to enhance policy coherence, efficiency and cooperation with them.
  • To approve the budget of the Secretariat and BIMSTEC Centres/Entities as proposed by the Senior Ministerial Meetings.
  • To endorse the deliberations of the BIMSTEC Sectoral Ministerial Meetings.
  • To appoint the Secretary-General of BIMSTEC, with the rank and status of an Ambassador upon the recommendation of the Senior’s Official Meeting.
  • To undertake such other functions as may be assigned by the BIMSTEC Summit.

BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meetings

The BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting comprises the Foreign Secretaries or appropriate Senior Officials nominated by the Member States. This meeting is held once a year, preceding the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting. Senior Officials’ Meeting shall have the following powers and functions:

  • To prepare for the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting
  • To follow up and coordinate the implementation of agreements.
  • To coordinate with the Sectoral Bodies in Sectors where there is no MInisterial body.
  • To initiate proposals on all administrative and financial matters for the consideration of the Ministerial Meeting.
  • To assess and approve and take action on the deliberations of the BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee.
  • To undertake such other functions as may be assigned by BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting.

The BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting shall report to the Ministerial Meeting.

BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee

The BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee (BPWC) comprises the National Focal Points at the appropriate senior level of each Member State of BIMSTEC. The Meeting of BPWC shall be held at least twice a year. In addition, the committee shall meet as and when required. Following are the functions of the BPWC:

  • To prepare Schedule/Calander of BIMSTEC activities, in consultation with the Secretariat.
  • To prioritize and rationalize the BIMSETC projects/activities.
  • To prepare for the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting.
  • To deliberate on the administrative and financial matters of the Secretariat and BIMSTEC Centres/Entities.
  • To undertake such other functions as may be assigned by the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting.

BIMSTEC Sectoral Ministerial Meetings

The BIMSTEC Sectoral Ministerial Meetings comprise the relevant Ministers of line Ministries responsible for carrying out the activities of the respective sectors. The Sectoral Ministerial Bodies shall meet as and when required. These bodies shall be hosted and chaired by the Lead Country of a particular sector. Each Sectoral Ministerial body may have under its purview the relevant Senior Officials, Sectoral Working Groups, Sub-sectoral Expert Groups, etc. Following are the functions of BIMSETC Sectoral Ministerial Bodies:

  • To implement the agreements and decisions of the BIMSTEC Summit under their respective purview.
  • To function in accordance with their respective established mandates.
  • To strengthen cooperation in their respective fields in promoting the objectives of BIMSTEC.
  • To assess and approve and take action on the deliberations of the BIMSTEC Sectoral Senior Officials Meetings.
  • To submit report and recommendations to the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting for consideration at the BIMSTEC Summit.

Areas of Cooperation

There are 14 Areas of Cooperation within the BIMSTEC, which are as follows:

  1. Trade and Investment.
  2. Technology.
  3. Energy.
  4. Tourism
  5. Transportation and Communication.
  6. Fisheries.
  7. Agriculture.
  8. Public Health.
  9. Poverty Alleviation.
  10. People-to-People Contact.
  11. Cultural Cooperation.
  12. Environmental and Disaster Management.
  13. Climate Change.
  14. Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime.

Each of the BIMSTEC Member States guides the way in at least one or more of these areas of cooperation.

BangladeshTrade, Investment and Development
BhutanEnvironment and Climate Change
IndiaSecurityCounter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime.
Disaster Management.
MyanmarAgriculture and Food SecurityAgriculture.
Fisheries and Livestock.
NepalPeople-to-People ContactCulture.
People-to-People Contact (forums of think tanks, media, etc.).
Sri LankaScience, Technology and Innovation.Technology.
Human Resource Development.

Principles of BIMSTEC

The Principles mentioned in the BIMSTEC Charter are as follows:

  • Cooperation within the framework of the BIMSTEC shall be based on respect for the principles of:
    • Sovereign equality,
    • Territorial integrity,
    • Political independence,
    • Non-interference in the internal affairs,
    • Peaceful Co-existence,
    • Mutual Benefits.
  • Such Cooperation will not be a substitute for bilateral, sub-regional, regional, or multilateral cooperation involving the Member States but shall complement them.

Objectives of BIMSTEC

The Objectives mentioned in the BIMSTEC Charter are as follows:

  • To accelerate the economic growth and social progress in the Bay of Bengal region through joint initiatives in a spirit of equality and partnership.
  • To create an enabling environment for the rapid economic development of the Bay of Bengal region through the implementation of specific cooperation projects in the agreed areas of cooperation. Member countries may periodically review the areas of cooperation.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interests in social, economic, technical and scientific fields.
  • To maintain peace and stability in the Bay of Bengal region through collaboration in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crimes, natural disasters and communicable diseases.
  • To attempt to eradicate poverty from the Bay of Bengal region.
  • To encourage trade and investment as a major contributing factor to fostering social and economic development in the region.
  • To establish multidimensional connectivity and promote synergy among connectivity frameworks in the region.
  • To assist each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, and technical spheres.
  • To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.

Potential of BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC acts as a connecting link between South Asia and Southeast Asian countries.
  • It provides a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN member nations.
  • The BIMSTEC Member States constitute around 22% of the global population, having a population of approximately 1.5 billion.
  • Every year, around 25% of the world’s traded goods cross through the Bay of Bengal.
  • The BIMSTEC Member States have a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around US $ 2.7 Trillion. Most of the Member countries have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory in the last five years.
  • Many important connectivity projects are located near the Bay of Bengal.
    • Asian Trilateral Highway – connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
    • Kaladan Multimodal Project – links India and Myanmar.
    • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement – To ensure the unhindered flow of passenger and cargo traffic among these countries.

Significance of BIMSTEC for India

  • Due to differences between India and Pakistan, SAARC has largely been ineffective. Hence, BIMSTEC provides an alternative mechanism for India to engage with its close neighbours.
  • Allow India to counter the rising influence of China in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Provides India with the opportunity to promote its three core policies:
    • Neighbourhood First Policy – To give preference to the immediate neighbouring countries of India.
    • Act East Policy – To connect India with Southeast Asia.
    • Economic development of the Northeastern States of India – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Challenges faced by BIMSTEC

  • Inconsistency in Meetings: BIMSTEC has the mandate to hold Summits every two years and Ministerial Meetings every year. However, only five Summits have been held till 2022.
  • Broad Focus Area: The focus areas of the BIMSTEC are very wide, including the 14 areas of cooperation. It is suggested that BIMSTEC should narrow down the focus areas to cooperate with them effectively.
  • Ignored by the Member States: Member countries like Thailand and Myanmar are more focused on ASEAN in comparison to BIMSTEC.
  • Bilateral issues among Member Nations: The rise in the bilateral issues between the Member States of the organization has undermined the strength of the BIMSTEC.
  • BCIM: The formation of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Initiative has further undermined the potential of BIMSTEC.


  1. What is BIMSTEC National Focal Point?

    As per the BIMSTEC Charter, each Member State shall establish a BIMSTEC National Focal Point (NFP) at their respective Ministry of External/Foreign Affairs.

  2. What are the powers and functions of BIMSTEC National Focal Point?

    To serve as the national point of contact for all communications with the BIMSTEC Secretariat, including e-mail;
    To coordinate the implementation of BIMSTEC decisions at the national level;
    To support the national preparations for BIMSTEC Meetings;
    Be the repository of information on all BIMSTEC matters at the national level.

  3. When was the First Meeting of the BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs held?

    On 21 March 2017, the first meeting of National Security Chiefs of the BIMSTEC Member States was held in New Delhi, hosted by India. It aimed at discussing the common security challenges faced by the Member States. The meeting focused on the significance of maritime security.

  4. What is BFTAFA?

    The BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement (BFTAFA) has been signed by all Member States of BIMSTEC to stimulate trade and investment in the parties and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in the BIMSTEC countries at a higher level.
    The “Trade Negotiating Committee ” (TNC) was set up, with Thailand as the permanent chair. The first meeting of TNC took place in Bangkok in September 2004.
    TNC’s negotiation area covers trade in goods and services, investment, economic cooperation, trade facilitation, and technical assistance for Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

  5. Write about the Cooperation of BIMSTEC with the Asian Development Bank (ADB)?

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) became the partner of BIMSTEC in 2005 under the “BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study” (BTILS), which was completed in 2014.

  6. When was the first meeting of the BIMSTEC Conclave of Ports Summit took place?

    The first meeting of the BIMSTEC Conclave of Port summit was held in Visakhapatnam (India) on 7 November 2019. It aims to provide a platform to strengthen maritime interaction, port-led connectivity initiatives and sharing of best practices among the Member States.

  7. Where was BIMSTEC Energy Centre located?

    On 4 October 2005, the first BIMSTEC Energy Ministers conference was held in New Delhi. During this conference, the Member countries agreed to set up a BIMSTEC Energy Centre (BEC) to share experience in reform, restructuring, and regulation and best practices in the energy sector.
    Hence, the BIMSTEC Energy Centre was set up in Bengaluru in India.

  8. Where was BIMSTEC Centre on Weather and Climate situated?

    During the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit in March 2014, the Memorandum of Association (MoA) was signed for the formation of the BIMSTEC Centre on Weather and Climate (BCWC).
    The BCWC is located in the National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Noida (India).

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