In region is that it lies at the crossroads

In brief let us see the prospects, importance and challenges of BCIM EC.

The prospects in BCIM is mainly free
trade. Along with it, the proposed BCIM region has huge potential for cooperation
in investment in the transport, energy and tourism sectors:

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(i) Transport

It could be another
potential area of cooperation, given the fact that the land-locked status of
some of the BCIM members, i.e., north-east India and south-west China. Under
the circumstances, Bangladesh could play a critical role by providing easy
access to global markets for these areas. In this regard, all the countries concerned
could gain tremendously if an integrated transportation network could be established
within the region, as this would boost trade and investment through the reduction
of transaction costs.

An added advantage of
the region is that it lies at the crossroads between East Asia and South-East
Asia on the one hand, and South Asia on the other. The region could use its
strategic location within Asia to build links with other regions, and could gain
immensely from such cooperation. Chittagong port could serve as the sea outlet
for a huge hinterland that would cover southern China and north-east India
States.

(ii) Energy

 

The BCIM region has
huge natural and mineral resources. The south-western provinces of China, the
north-eastern States of India and Myanmar have huge reserves of natural gas. In
addition, this sub-region has rich reserves of coal, petroleum and manganese.
Cooperation among the countries concerned may help to encourage joint
initiatives in constructing industries and attracting intraregional investment.
The region also has substantial water resources that could be employed in
generating hydroelectricity to accelerate the industrial sector of this region.
In this regard, the BCIM region has an opportunity to establish a regional forum
to assess electricity generation capacity and mechanisms, and suggest the forms
and norms of electricity cooperation for BCIM.

(iii) Tourism

 

Tourism is another
area of great potential through which the member countries could reap benefits
through sub-regional cooperation. A number of tourist destinations in this
region, particularly in India, China and Bangladesh, have beautiful landscapes,
rich biological resources, age-old history and a wide range of cultural
diversity that could attract tourists both from the region and from around the
world. By facilitating easy travel among the member countries, this sub-regional
cooperation could also play a critical role in developing eco-tourism and
religious tourism by fostering connectivity between the member countries.
Through the expansion of tourism within the region, the member countries would
be able to collect more revenue and investment may therefore be increased.17

The importance of BCIM:

·       India will benefit in terms of the
development of the Kolkata port and the opening up of the economic potential of
the northeast states

·       BCIM
offers India an opportunity to create its own win-win relationship with China.

·       India’s
gain from the BCIM includes the ability to connect to the One Belt, One Road
project thus opening up markets to the east.

·       It
can also use the economic corridor for negotiating downstream industries to be
located within India.

·       With
natural gas reserves of about 200 trillion cubic feet, the largest in the
Asia-Pacific, Bangladesh could become one of the major energy exporting
countries.  

·       BCIM
can not only be a game-changer for this region in Asia, but is also pivotal for
India’s ‘Act East’ Policy.

·       China
will obtain one more route bypassing the Malacca Straits.

·       Economic
Benefits include access to several booming markets in Southeast Asia,
improvement of transport infrastructure and setting up of industrial zones.18

The
few of the many challenges are:

·       BCIM
is one of the least integrated areas, economically as well as socially.

·      
Indian
critics of BCIM state that China cannot be trusted, and cite the divergent
positions of the two countries on Arunachal Pradesh and PoK. It would pose a
strategic risk for India to allow China access to Arunachal Pradesh region
before the border issue is amicably settled.

·      
Security is a very important aspect of BCIM
that ethnic insurgencies, terrorism, drug trafficking and the accompanying
spread of HIV infections, smuggling, as well as cross-border human trafficking,
threatened to derail the project.

·      
CPEC-BCIM interconnection has the potential
to immensely bolster India’s energy security both on the western and eastern
flanks.

·      
It
seems likely that this corridor will benefit China by boosting economic
production and prosperity in China’s Yunnan and adjoining provinces.

·      
It
will help move Chinese goods over land to the Indian market without having to
cross the disputed border.

·      
It
will also provide China direct and unfettered access to Bay of Bengal, enabling
it to lessen its dependence on the narrow and risk-prone Malacca Straits for
global trade and energy imports.

·      
On the
other hand, benefits to India, Bangladesh and Myanmar will be minimal.

BCIM
will only worsen other three countries trade deficits as cheap and low-quality
Chinese goods are likely to flood their markets to the detriment of domestic
industries.