What India needs to do in the SAARC?
SAARC was established in mid-1980s and was the brainchild of Zia-ur-Rehman of Bangladesh. In its initial stages and until much later, it was seen as a counter-organization to India’s dominating presence in the Asian sub-continent.
SAARC’s main objective, at present, is to engage the economies of the sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan, Myanmar) plus Afghanistan in areas of
- trade and commerce
- energy security
- science and technology
- socio-economic issues like illiteracy, poverty, hunger, etc
SAARC and criticism
SAARC is seen as one of the most ineffective organisations and draws a blank when compared to other regional organisations like EU, ASEAN, etc
The region is poorly integrated with weak connectivity and low levels of trade and cultural exchange.
Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations have taken centre-stage at SAARC and due to bitterness in relations, hardly any progress has been made in nearly three decades since it came into existence.
India accounts for nearly 70% of SAARC in terms of both area and people. Therefore, it is imperative for India to take initiative in reviving SAARC putting aside the differences with its neighbors.
Firstly, it must do everything possible to expedite infrastructure projects to develop closer connectivity with countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Trade must be given an impetuous by pushing for SAFTA and reducing transactional costs.
All the countries must unite in fighting against poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, hunger, etc as the Asian sub-continent is the second least developed region after the sub-Saharan African region.
Energy cooperation is a must to meet the growing energy demands of the burgeoning population.
Collaborations in science and technology needs to receive top priority. The announcement by the Indian PM to setup a SAARC satellite is a welcome move.
Going forward, the world is going to be adversely affected by climate change, energy scarcity, river-water disputes, food shortage, etc. In this context, it is impossible for any country to single-handedly tackle these challenges. This calls for strong cooperation in regional and multi-lateral platforms like SAARC. Therefore, SAARC’s role in the future cannot be neglected.