As the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) leaders are all set to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on May 30, here’s all you should know about the organization and how it is different from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

In 2014, when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India for the first time, SAARC  leaders were invited for the swearing-in ceremony.

But after the Pulwama attack and Balakot strike, the relationship between India and Pakistan has further soured and an invitation to the SAARC nations for the swearing-in was not possible.

The failure of SAARC, due to the India-Pakistan rivalry, has forced the nation to look at the BIMSTEC as an alternative.

BIMSTEC ensures the absence of Pakistan in the regional organisation and it is in accordance with India’s efforts to sideline Pakistan on international platforms.

BIMSTEC is an international organisation of seven nations of South and South-East Asia. The BIMSTEC member states are – Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan.

It was formed nearly two decades ago on June 06, 1997 and the permanent secretariat was established in Dhaka in 2014.

Originally it was called BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – Economic Cooperation) and was formed at a meeting in Bangkok in June 1997. Myanmar was admitted in December 1997 and the organisation was renamed as BIMST-EC.

The organization expanded when Nepal and Bhutan were admitted in February 2004. The name was changed to BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in July 2004.

While reduced conflict among the member countries helps the organization to achieve the common ground for regional cooperation and stability, it also helps to bridge the gap between ASEAN and India in the presence of south-east countries like Thailand and Myanmar.

BIMSTEC can also provide a headstart to Modi’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood first’ policy.