Cooperation within BIMSTEC is envisaged under seven sectors, each led one member state
In a significant step forward for the regional grouping, the Charter of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) entered into force on May 20, 2024, paving the way for external partnerships and admission of observers and new members.
The news was announced by the BIMSTEC Secretariat, which recalled that the Charter was signed by the Heads of State and Government of the BIMSTEC member States during the Fifth Summit held virtually in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 30, 2022. 
BIMSTEC comprises seven member states – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
India has welcomed the development, with External Affairs Minister (EAM) Jaishankar saying that BIMSTEC reflects the synthesis of the nation’s Neighbourhood First and Act East policies.
"The entry into force of the BIMSTEC Charter reaffirms India's commitment to a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable neighbourhood. It is achieved by building on our shared history, culture, vision and mutual respect for each other. BIMSTEC reflects the synthesis of our Neighbourhood First and Act East policies!" EAM Jaishankar posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday (May 21, 2024).
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) described it as a significant milestone for BIMSTEC regional cooperation.
"A significant milestone for BIMSTEC regional cooperation! BIMSTEC Charter entered into force on 20 May 2024, providing legal and institutional framework for meaningful cooperation and deeper integration of the Bay of Bengal region. It enables BIMSTEC to partner with other interested countries/organisations and admit Observers and new Members," MEA Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal posted on X.
The key features of the BIMSTEC Charter are as follows:
* Articulates the long-term vision and priorities of the Member States
* Establishes the legal and institutional framework for cooperation in the region
* Confers legal personality on the organisation
* Enables admission of New Members and Observers
* Enables conclusion of agreements with countries/organisations
BIMSTEC was established in June 1997, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. It was initially known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation). Myanmar joined in December 1997, and the organization came to be known as BIMST-EC. After Bhutan and Nepal also joined in February 2004, it was renamed as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
The main aim of this regional grouping was the promotion of economic cooperation between countries bordering the Bay of Bengal.
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.
In 2021, cooperation within BIMSTEC was reorganized under the following sectors and sub-sectors and led by the respective member states:
Trade, Investment and Development (Sub-sectors: - Blue Economy) – Bangladesh.
Environment & Climate Change (Sub-sectors: Mountain Economy) – Bhutan.
Security (Sub-sectors: Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, Disaster Management, Energy) – India.
Agriculture and Food Security (Sub-sectors: Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock) – Myanmar.
People-to-People Contact (Sub-sectors: Culture, Tourism, Poverty Alleviation, People-to-People Contact) – Nepal.
Science, Technology & Innovation (Sub-sectors: Technology, Health, Human Resource Development) – Sri Lanka.
Connectivity – Thailand.