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Kathmandu BIMSTEC: No major breakthrough

By Our Political Analyst
Although the government is highly satisfied and encouraged by successfully concluding the BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu, intellectuals are found not so encouraged from the summit.
Modi domination:
Intellectuals, academicians and Nepal’s former diplomats believe that BIMSTEC is India’s strategic demonstration rather than a regional organization for cooperation.
India has pushed forward this regional organization to overshadow SAARC and also to counter China’s presence in the South Asian region.
Addressing the BIMSTEC summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward about half a dozen proposals, including BIMSTEC member countries’ joint military exercise to be held in India soon. This joint military exercise has created doubts that whether India is not trying to demonstrate military alliance in the region! Not to forget, Indians had also planned to organize SAARC military force under their command in the past.
At the media briefing, Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali clarified that Nepal will not participate in any kind of military exercise aimed at military pact of any of the nation/purpose but will participate on friendship military exercises with friendly countries specially on disaster management and counter-terrorism.
Modi’s address was almost like his election campaign address to impress Indian voters.
The Kathmandu summit was unable to draft or endorse the BIMSTEC Charter. In the history of 20 years, BIMSTEC has been unable to introduce its Charter. Therefore, member nations are defining BIMSTEC on their own conceptions. Basically, BIMISTEC aims to bring economic prosperity to the member states but proposal of joint military exercise in India seems very odd.
In the Kathmandu summit, the member states inked a primary agreement on power grid sharing by the member states. This is a hope that Nepal may export hydropower not only to Bangladesh but also to Thailand. But will it materialize unless there is a change in the attitude of the Indian rulers?
Under the SAARC, there are many regional level cooperation agreements but they have not materialized due to the negative role of India.
Thailand has given stress on connectivity among the member states, which is appreciable but what about the “chicken neck” which passes through a very sensitive Indian zone? Even in trade with Bangladesh, the Indian authority doesn’t allow free movement of Bangladeshi and Nepali vehicles in this area, can we think about road and railway link between South East Asia and East Asia?
Compared to BIMSTEC, SAARC has held more summits and endorsed many more agreements for regional cooperation. But Modi didn’t wish to pronounce the name of SAARC while delivering his address to the Summit.
Oli, currently chairman of SAARC, said that BIMSTEC is not an alternative to SAARC, but what efforts is he going to make to resume the postponed SAARC summit in Pakistan?
Some of the BIMSTEC member countries are going to face general elections soon. Therefore, their priority will be for the general elections rather than implementation of the BIMSTEC agreements.
Furthermore, can BIMSTEC get momentum by sidelining economic giant China, this is a burning question. What will be the Chinese role in the development of connectivity and infrastructure in the region?

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