India reaches out, leaders of Bimstec might attend Republic Day 2022

Efforts are on to have leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) international locations in New Delhi for the Republic Day celebrations subsequent yr, it’s learnt.

Besides India, the seven-nation subregional grouping consists of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan. Leaders of Bimstec attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in in the beginning of his second time period in May 2019, however there have been adjustments of management in a few of these international locations since then.

Sources advised The Indian Express that South Block is in shut contact with the leaders of those international locations and their places of work for affirmation of their availability. Feelers have been despatched by means of the “appropriate channels”, the sources mentioned — and the visitor checklist for Republic Day might be introduced as soon as the confirmations are obtained.

As per protocol, the a call for participation goes out solely after the provision of the overseas chief has been confirmed.

Extending an invite to be the chief visitor on the Republic Day parade carries nice symbolic significance from the angle of the Indian authorities. New Delhi’s selection of chief visitor yearly is dictated by a variety of causes — strategic and diplomatic issues, enterprise pursuits, and worldwide geopolitics.

India is hoping that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa or his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepal, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering of Bhutan, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, and the Chairman of Myanmar’s State Administration Council, General Min Aung Hlaing, will attend the Republic Day celebrations.

This would be the first alternative for the Indian management to have interaction instantly with Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who seized energy in February this yr. In 2019, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar had completely different leaders. Bangladesh had despatched President Mohammed Abdul Hamid for Modi’s swearing-in.

The sources cautioned, nonetheless, that with the Covid-19 pandemic not but over, a component of uncertainty stays, and there’s a chance of last-minute cancellations of plans.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson needed to cancel his go to to India for the Republic Day celebrations this yr because of the raging pandemic in his nation. India had no chief visitor for Republic Day in January 2021.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil was chief visitor in 2020, and in 2019, after the invitation to then United States President Donald Trump didn’t work out, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was invited as chief visitor.

Ten leaders from Asean international locations attended Republic Day in 2018, and within the previous years, the chief friends had been the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2017), French President Francois Hollande (2016), and US President Barack Obama (2015).

New Delhi’s engagement with Bimstec rose from the ashes of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). In October 2016, following the terrorist assault in Uri the earlier month, India gave a renewed push to rejuvenate the grouping that had then existed for almost twenty years, however had been largely ignored. Alongside the BRICS summit in Goa, Modi hosted an outreach summit with Bimstec leaders.

That yr, some Bimstec international locations supported New Delhi’s name for a boycott of the Saarc summit scheduled in Islamabad in November 2016. The summit was postponed, and India claimed victory in isolating Pakistan, having accused that nation of finishing up the Uri assault.

Bimstec supplied a regional platform at which 5 of the eight member states of Saarc might collect to debate sub-regional cooperation. India had lengthy felt that the huge potential of Saarc was being underutilised, and alternatives had been being misplaced because of the lack of response and/or the obstructionist approach from Pakistan.

India’s seek for a substitute for Saarc had been evident on the 2014 Saarc summit in Kathmandu, the place Modi had mentioned alternatives have to be realised “through SAARC or outside it”, and “among us all or some of us”. That was an vital sign to Pakistan, in addition to different Saarc states.

Two years after the BRICS-Bimstec outreach summit and the Bimstec leaders’ retreat, the fourth Bimstec summit was held in Kathmandu in September 2018. It was solely the fourth summit of the grouping in 21 years, however the end result was thought-about complete — masking floor from the blue economic system to counter-terrorism.

The Bay of Bengal is the world’s largest bay. Over a fifth (22%) of the world’s inhabitants lives within the seven international locations round it, which have a mixed GDP of near $2.7 trillion.

The seven Bimstec international locations had been capable of maintain common annual charges of financial development between 3.4% and seven.5% from 2012 to 2016. The Bay of Bengal has huge untapped pure sources, and a fourth of the world’s traded items cross the bay yearly.

The authentic Bimstec grouping shaped in 1997 had Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and got here to incorporate Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan later. Two Bimstec nations, Thailand and Myanmar, are additionally a part of Asean, and the Bay of Bengal grouping types a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The Bay of Bengal, a funnel to the Malacca straits, has emerged as a key theatre for an more and more assertive China, which is eager to make sure its entry to the Indian Ocean stays unimpeded. Beijing has undertaken a large drive to finance and develop infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia by means of the Belt and Road Initiative in almost all Bimstec international locations, besides India and Bhutan.

As China steps up submarine actions and ship visits within the Indian Ocean, it is vital for India to consolidate engagement with Bimstec international locations as a part of its broader Indo-Pacific technique.