The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization that was established on 06 June 1997 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. Initially known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation), the organisation is now known as BIMSTEC and comprises seven Member States with the admission of Myanmar on 22 December 1997, and Bhutan and Nepal in February 2004.
On 06 June 1997, representatives of the Governments of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand came together in Bangkok, and signed the ‘Declaration on the Establishment of the Bangladesh–India–Sri Lanka–Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIST-EC)’
The Declaration which was signed by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, Abul Hasan Chowdhury, the Minister of State of the Republic of India Saleem Iqbal Shervani, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka D.P. Wickremasinghe, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand Pitak Intrawityanunt later came to be known as the ‘Bangkok Declaration’. The main aim of the regional group was the promotion of economic cooperation between countries bordering the Bay of Bengal.
With Myanmar joining on 22 December 1997, the group was renamed BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation), and with the admission of Nepal and Bhutan during the 6th Ministerial Meeting in Thailand in July 2004, the grouping was renamed during the First Summit in Bangkok on 31 July 2004 as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
BIMSTEC’s institutional evolution has been gradual. Following a decision at the Third BIMSTEC Summit in 2014, the BIMSTEC Secretariat was established in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in that same year, providing an institutionalized framework for deepening and enhancing cooperation.
Being a sector-driven grouping, cooperation within BIMSTEC had initially focused on six sectors in 1997 (trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism, and fisheries) and expanded in 2008 to incorporate agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people-to-people contact, and climate change. Subsequently, following steps to rationalize and reorganize sectors and sub-sectors, cooperation was reorganized in 2021 under the following sectors and sub-sectors led by the respective Member States:
: Trade, Investment and Development
: Environment & Climate Change
Sub-sectors: Counter-Terrorism and Trasnational Crime,
Disaster Management, Energy
: Agriculture and Food Security
Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock
: People-to-People Contact
Culture, Tourism, People-to-People Contact
(forums of think tanks, media etc.)
: Science, Technology & Innovation (Sri Lanka)
Technology, Health, Human Resource Development