Don’t expect much from BIMSTEC, says southeast Asia expert Bertil Lintner

“I don’t think any country will accept any kind of regional superstructure,” he says

December 01, 2019 11:38 am | Updated 11:39 am IST - Kolkata

Bertil Lintner has authored over half a dozen books on Myanmar, China, North Korea and “Methamphetamine explosion in the Golden Triangle”. | File

Bertil Lintner has authored over half a dozen books on Myanmar, China, North Korea and “Methamphetamine explosion in the Golden Triangle”. | File

One “should not expect much” from the regional group of south and south east Asian countries, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). BIMSTEC may still continue to operate as the countries “always need to talk”, but after 22 years of its inception, there is not much left in this regional group of seven counties to look forward to, said foremost south east and east Asia expert, Bertil Lintner.

“I am sceptical. People sit in meetings (but) do not draw any grand plan to drive the organisation forward,” said Mr Linter, on the sidelines of a two-day Observer Research Foundation (ORF) conference on BIMSTEC. Mr Lintner, who has authored over half a dozen books on Myanmar, China, North Korea and “Methamphetamine explosion in the Golden Triangle”, said that the argument that “BIMSTEC took trade negotiations forward” has little merit.

“Trade has its own dynamics. Of course, they (BIMSTEC members) can relax customs regime or facilitate ports but trade has its own momentum and importantly official trade is also informal, which does not reflect anywhere,” said Mr Lintner, while adding that he was equally sceptical about dialogue on security within the BIMSTEC.

“I don’t think any country will accept any kind of regional superstructure; they have memories of fighting against the colonial rule and thus they would not like to surrender their sovereignty to a superstructure. However, I do not mean that it [BIMSTEC] is nothing; people always need to talk but one should not expect much from it,” he said.

Thus, the BIMSTEC cannot play a role to address the Rohingya, crisis which is affecting three of its member countries, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. Mr Lintner also does not feel that the BIMSTEC as a regional grouping may make any difference to influence China in the region.

“This is something BIMSTEC members do not talk about openly but there was a suspicion. However, I don’t think as a group they can do that [though] people from various countries under BIMSTEC umbrella may talk about the issue. But that talk is informal, behind the closed doors. It is not structured, formal,” Mr Lintner noted.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.