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January 20, 2017

Essay - SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)

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SAARC Towards Great Cooperation

  • The formation of SAARC and its member countries. 
  • Mutual bilateral conflict among the member countries. 
  • The result of recent SAARC Summit. 
  • SAARC and other regional groups. 
  • SAARC initiates talks with different countries.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a geopolitical organisation, established on 8th December 1985, at the behest of the then Bangladesh's President General Ziaur Rehman. It comprises of eight member _ countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Its headquarters are located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The member countries are bound by the ties of history and culture, share common problems, interest, and aspirations among its people. The South-Asian region is one of the most densely populated but scarcely educated regions of the world. It is resourceful but mismanaged and ill-maintained area. SAARC was established with an intend to promote the development through mutual cooperation and assistance.

According to the charter of SAARC, it aims to provide a platform to the governments of South-Asian countries to negotiate and resolve mutual differences for the sake of public welfare and mutual development. It aimed at promoting the socio-economic development by fostering mutual understanding, cooperation and good neighbourly relations among the developing countries of South Asia.

However, SAARC has been unable to establish its credentials as an economic and regional trade huh. A number of reasons can be attributed as the cause of the aforementioned fact. The member countries have displayed a considerable trust deficit towards each other which made SAARC one of the least integrated regions in the world. There exists a mutual bilateral conflict among the member countries which is one of the major roadblocks to the development of SAARC. The age-old conflict between India and Pakistan is known to the world. India and Bangladesh have been at loggerheads over the maritime boundary and South Talpretti. Immigrants problem exists between Bhutan and Nepal. Any act of cooperation and interaction initiated by the member country is viewed through the lens of suspicion by the others.

The SAARC charter focuses on multilateral issues giving the bilateral issues a backseat. Thus, the platform has failed to resolve the existing bilateral issues. Also, there are inadequate means of transportation and communication among the member countries, which marks regular interactions. Communication is important in order to resolve the bilateral issues and foster integrity among the nations.

The charter mentions the objective of SAARC as the promotion of cultural, economic and social ties among the members but these have become hard to execute in the rise of wide trust deficit among the member countries.

Most of the bodies working under the umbrella of SAARC are focusing on the social fields. The promotion of mutual cooperation and trust have been left out of the focus. There exists a wide gap between the conceptualisation of the ideas and their successful implementation as well as execution among the countries. The countries are unwilling to provide information about their potential which is one of the major bottlenecks in the promotion of intra-regional trade in South Asia.

Besides, there are a number of other factors which have led to the failure of SAARC. The member countries are at different stages of development. At present, India can be considered the most developed country in the South Asian region. This does not go well with the other member countries which have apprehensions of the rising dominance of India in the region. They feel that smaller countries are being sidelined in this process.

There exists a disparity among the natural resources in the form of land and water, available in each country. These boundary demarcations have lead to the rise in conflict among the member countries about the use of a particular resource. It was during the 18th SAARC Summit held in 26th-27th November, 2014 that Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi remarked that regional integration in South Asia would go ahead through SAARC.

This SAARC Summit was attended by the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the President of Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. The motto was 'Deeper integration for peace and prosperity'. Foreign ministers of the eight member states signed an agreement on energy cooperation in the presence of their head of the state and the government.

Besides SAARC, a large number of sub-regional groups have been established to foster cooperation ilonig the South Asian countries. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) came into existence in 1997 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand as its members. BIMSTEC aimed at achieving cooperation in trade, transport, investment, communication, tourism, energy and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

The South Asia Growth Quadrangle consists of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, is known as BBIN. The transport ministers of BBIN signed a Landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (LMV) on 15th June, 2015. This agreement made way for the seamless movement of goods and people across the boundaries in order to promote regional integration and economic development. The South Asia Sub-regional Economic Corridor (SASEC) began in 2001 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka as its members. The project aimed at promoting regional prosperity and focussed on green energy corridor in order to build information highways. 

BCIM corridor which comprises of Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar is another step to promote connectivity in the South Asian region. This would link India's North East region with East Asia. East Asia has the natural gas reserves of Bangladesh.

The sub-regional cooperation in South Asia will provide impetus to India's international trade and will strengthen South Asia's position as a regional trade hub. It will definitely be a win- win situation for India in terms of investment, trade, assistance, people to people contact and connectivity. India, being the power with considerable leverage would have to go an extra mile to assure the success of these platforms.

Despite the failures of SAARC outweighing its achievements, it has a provided platform for the leaders of different countries to initiate talks with each other. The countries need to understand the importance of the cooperation extended at the regional or sub-regional level and promote the same. Such initiatives will go a long way in creating new opportunities and tapping the untapped ones.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Foster to promote growth and development
  • Credentials anything that provides the basis for confidence belief, credit
  • Aforementioned cited or mentioned earlier
  • Bottleneck a narrow entrance or passageway
  • Disparity lack of similarity or equality
  • Apprehensions anticipation of adversity or misfortune
  • Hub a center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate
  • Doctrine a particular principle, position or policy taught or advocated.
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