National Security Vol. III Issue I | January - March 2020
About the Issue

India’s experience with regionalism has not been very happy. It joined SAARC knowing that its smaller South Asian neighbours wanted to both engage it and simultaneously collectively balance it. Over the years the smaller states even began lobbying to bring China into the organization for this purpose. The tensions between India’s goal of an integrated, peaceful and secure region from which all member states would gain and the goal of balancing by its neighbours was most visible in the case of Pakistan. Having joined SAARC Islamabad’s deep suspicions and hostility towards India overwhelmed the organization. Consensus was difficult to achieve and when finally attained implementation was blocked. Thus, connectivity plans and the Free Trade Area agreement that would have integrated the region’s vast markets, and promoted both economic and political cooperation were thwarted by Islamabad. Finally, it’s hostile involvement in terrorist operations against India in Mumbai in 2008, and a series of other attacks in the country, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, dealt a death-blow to SAARC. Connectivity, trade and cross border investments, and regional institutions are instruments to enhance overall security in its broadest sense. SAARC failed to achieve that goal.

India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has now evolved an alternative vision. Combining his ‘neighbourhood first’ and Act East Policy, a new perspective on what would constitute a viable regional order has emerged. The orientation is towards the Bay of Bengal and the Indo-Pacific. Thus, new life was infused into the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) that lay moribund for many years without a vision or a strong central organization. BIMSTEC seeks to integrate the entire region spread around the Bay of Bengal that at one time was deeply integrated and prosperous, and to serve as a bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast and East Asia.

Would this alternative vision of regionalism and regional order succeed? Would India be able to provide the vision, the active leadership and support to make the enterprise a success at a time when globalization and its offshoot, regionalism, are in retreat? Would the smaller states in the Bay be able to work together and overcome their insecurities and vulnerabilities, or would they persist with their balancing goal? These are issues that would determine the course that BIMSTEC takes in the coming decade. Much depends on whether it can create the institutional structure, the favourable policies and the techno-financial capacities for expansion of communication networks – roads, railways, ports, cyber--and enabling easy access to markets.

The current issue of National Security is devoted to examining the various perspectives on the BIMSTEC from within the region. They raise and answer many important questions. The essays and articles fill a genuine need to have a more engaged discourse and a wider body of literature on the theme. We hope the readers would find this Issue both relevant and rewarding.

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Contents : Vol. III Issue I | January - March 2020

Essays

BIMSTEC as a regional organization:Déjà vu or new beginning? | Shambhu Ram Simkhada

BIMSTEC and its Future: Connecting South and Southeast Asia | Tariq Karim

BIMSTEC and S&T Cooperation: A Long Way Ahead | Kapil Patil

Submarines Gain Precedence in Bay of Bengal Naval Order of Battle | Vijay Sakhuja

Articles

Regional Connectivity and India’s BIMSTEC Policy | Constantino Xavier & Riya Sinha

Bangladesh beyond Borders: Its Trans-Regional Experience in BIMSTEC | Niloy Ranjan Biswas

Sri Lanka and BIMSTEC: Past, Present and Prospects for the Future | Bhagya Senaratne

A New BIMSTEC? : Reforms, Possibilities and Complexities | Angshuman Choudhury

Report

VIF-BIMSTEC Security Dialogue | Sreeradha Datta

Book Discussion

The Borderlands and Borders of the Indian Subcontinent | Dilip K Chakrabarti | Abanti Bhattacharya | K. Warikoo

Book Reviews

Exploring new avenues of regionalism in South Asia | Alakh Ranjan

Conflicting Identities: Travails of Regionalism in Asia | Anurag Sharma

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