Bilateral and Regional Groupings Concerning India

Heart of Asia Conference:

Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is a platform to discuss regional issues concerning Afghanistan and its neighbours. The broad areas of focus are the following

  • Counterterrorism
  • development
  • poverty
  • drug trafficking


  1. The members of this conference majorly includes the regional neighbours of Afghanistan including India
  2. The conference also has 17 other supporting countries including Western countries like USA, UK
  3. It also has supporting organizations like United Nations for its activities

India’s Interests:

  1. In the 2016 conference India has committed a financial aid USD 1 Billion to Afghanistan for improving its infrastructure and socio economic development. This in turn has the potential to reduce crime, terror and poverty in the region
  2. It provides opportunities to control drug trafficking that is prevalent in the Golden Crescent (it comprises Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan). India already faces illicit drugs being smuggled into the Indian states bordering this region. For example, Punjab and Haryana (bordering Pakistan)
  3. This conference can acts as a platform for discussing terrorist issues concerning India. For Example, India condemned Pakistan’s terror activities in India in the 2016 Heart of Asia conference.
Raisina Dialogue:

It is a conference initiated by India. It aims at improving the relations between India’s neighbours in the Asian region. It is modelled based on Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The theme of the first conference was “Connecting Asia“. It aims at Asian integration and improving the Asian integration with the world.

Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC):

It comprises six member countries, namely India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and VietnamThe organization takes its name from the Ganga and Mekong, the two large rivers in the region and thus aims to build relations in the countries through which both these rivers flow. In order to develop future trade and investment opportunities in the region, they emphasise on four areas of cooperation, which are 

  • Tourism
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Transportation
Significance of MGC:
  1. It is important for India’s Look East Policy
  2. It can be a game changer for improving people to people contact and exchange of cultural experiences between member countries
  3. They can be a diplomatic bridge connecting India to the rest of Southeast Asia. In the recent ministerial meeting of MGC, the need for extending this cooperation with ASEAN countries has been discussed
  4. India has awarded scholarships to students from MCG countries for improving educational cooperation

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation):

BIMSTEC comprises of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. Its regional spread is among the South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. They aim at improving technological and economic cooperation.

The grouping has identified 14 priority areas, some of them are

  • Transport and communication,
  • Tourism
  • Environment
  • Disaster management
  • Counter terrorism
  • Transnational Crime
Significance of BIMSTEC:

a)Economic Significance:

  1. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been signed between the member countries and thus the trade relations between the countries have improved
  2. The grouping aims at improving multimodal transport between the two countries and hence trade and investment can receive a boost
  3. India’s Power ministry has set up BIMSTEC energy centre in Bengaluru for improving regional power resources
  4. India has set up a network on traditional medicine for BIMSTEC countries and aims at improved cooperation in Generic pharmaceuticals.

b) Strategic Significance:

  1. It has the potential to develop India’s North Eastern region that is low in development due to its geographical disadvantage
  2. It acts as a bridge between SAARC and ASEAN
  3. BRICS-BIMSTEC Summit has taken this regional grouping to a global front

c) Environmental Significance: 

  1. Collective efforts of this grouping resulted in the setting up of Tsunami Warning Centre
  2. BIMSTEC centre on weather and climate has been setup in Noida, near New Delhi for data sharing in climate

Source: Ministry of External Affairs

SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation):

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a grouping of countries in South Asian region for promoting regional unity and economic cooperation. Its member countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Significance of SAARC:

  1. SAARC remains an important part of India’s neighbourhood first foreign policy
  2. Asia is becoming the region of new emerging superpowers like India and China. In this scenario, it is important to maintain regional unity to improve the economic growth and prosperity of this region
  3. South Asian Free Trade Area was formed in 2006. It improved the trade relations between the member countries initially
  4. SAARC has many areas of cooperation that are broad based and inclusive of all the current challenges faced by the South Asian region
  5. SAARC is needed for combating terrorism, improving maritime security and curbing piracy in South Asia

Problems in SAARC:

SAARC has been complained to have lost its significance for the following reasons

  1. Bilateral relations between member countries are not cordial. For Example, India’s neighbours like Pakistan are continuously engaged in cross border terror which took the diplomatic relations to a new low and thus India cancelled the 2016 SAARC summit.
  2. SAARC was not able to contain home grown terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan and thus dedicated  counter terrorism measures launched by them were unsuccessful
  3. Trade and economic cooperation are very low compared to any other regional groupings in the world
  4. SAARC region has many geographical and linguistic differences that acts as a hindrance to integration

Way Forward: 

  1. SAARC must be revived in full spirit for mutual cooperation and growth
  2. The diplomatic relations between member countries need to be strengthened by regular meetings of heads of states despite hostilities
  3. Border skirmishes can be minimised by Pakistan and China on Indian territory need to be curbed by regular DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) meeting

IBSA (India Brazil South Africa) Dialogue Forum:

IBSA is a trilateral grouping that represents multicultural democracies among these three countries that are spread over three continents. It aims at promoting South-South cooperation. The summits takes place regularly every year and the broad focus areas are

  • Agriculture
  • Trade
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Science and Technology
  • Education

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

SCO is an Eurasian (Europe+Asia) organization comprising of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were also accepted as full members recently.

What it means for India: 

  1. Becoming a member of SCO is a diplomatic victory for India as it aspires to become a global power
  2. The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) can get a boost. INSTC aims at connecting  India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia
  3. The construction of TAPI gas pipeline will also get a revival as the works are stalled for a long time
  4. Central Asia and Russia are rich in oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals like Uranium. The import of such natural resources can become easier by joining SCO
  5. The development of Chabahar Port for access through Iran can become a nodal point for accessing the land locked Central Asian countries




Print Friendly and PDF