The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Charter is one of the bills tabled in the upcoming session of the Third Parliament of the National Assembly (NA).
The Charter establishes clear provisions on the legal and institutional framework for BIMSTEC, and outlines how BIMSTEC as an inter-governmental regional organization would function.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MoFAET), such provisions are an advantage to a small country like Bhutan as it provides clarity on the scope and functioning of BIMSTEC as an organization.
The ratification and enforcement of the Charter will also reaffirm and strengthen Bhutan’s as a sovereign nation which is one of the objectives of Bhutan’s foreign policy and membership to regional or international organizations. Further, it will aid in achieving regional integration to boost our trade and cooperation in other spheres as well.
“As a Bhutanese Secretary General is currently leading the organization, our early adoption of the BIMSTEC Charter during his tenure would be received positively,” MoFAET sources said.
The ministry also stated that as Bhutan is already a member of BIMSTEC, no additional obligation, both financial and other wise, is foreseen as a result of signing and ratifying the Charter. “The enforcement of the Charter will formalize the legal and institutional framework of BIMSTEC.”
Further, the ministry also stated that obligations such as membership contribution, subscribing to various BIMSTEC Initiatives, hosting or attending BIMSTEC events, and leading sectors of cooperation are already being carried out by Bhutan.
“To fulfill our membership obligation with the human resources of the BIMSTEC Secretariat, officials from Bhutan have been posted to the BIMSTEC Secretariat. The present Secretary General of BIMSTEC is also from Bhutan,” it said.
The ministry therefore stated that no additional obligation arising from the Charter is foreseen beyond the aforementioned obligations which are already being carried out by Bhutan since its membership in 2004.
Further, the ministry added that as Bhutan is already a member of BIMSTEC, it does not foresee any social, economic, cultural, environmental, and political implications due to ratification of the Charter.
Rather, it said, the Charter essentially establishes the legal and institutional framework of BIMSTEC, as provided in Office of Attorney General’s (OAG) legal opinion prior to signing of the Charter. “Enactment of domestic legislation to implement the Charter is not deemed necessary,” the ministry stated.
Meanwhile, BIMSTEC will create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the already agreed areas of cooperation.
In addition, BIMSTEC will also accelerate the economic growth and social progress in the Bay of Bengal region through joint endeavors in a spirit of equality and partnership.
It will also promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, technical and scientific fields, and further provide assistance in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional and technical spheres.
BIMSTEC will also help in cooperating more effectively in joint efforts that are supportive of and complementary to national development plans of the Member States which result in tangible benefits to the people in raising their living standards, including generating employment and improving transportation and communication infrastructure.
It will also maintain peace and stability in the Bay of Bengal region through close collaboration in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crimes as well as natural disasters, climate change and communicable diseases.
The organization will also help to maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes and help eradicate poverty from the Bay of Bengal region.
Among others, it envisions establishing multidimensional connectivity, promoting synergy among connectivity frameworks, and promoting trade and investment as a major contributing factor to foster economic and social development in the region.
The instrument of endorsement shall be deposited with the Secretary General of BIMSTEC upon ratification by the Parliament. Furthermore, The Charter shall enter into force on the Thirtieth day following the deposit of the seventh instrument of ratification with the Secretary General.
Meanwhile, the Charter essentially deals with the legal and institutional framework of BIMSTEC and it does not have any implication on national laws and policies, and national multi-stakeholder consultations.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu