Why should Pakistan and India revive SAARC? – OpEd – Eurasia Review
Regionalism has grown in importance and prominence in international politics; which aims to solve regional problems through economic and security cooperation. Regional and sub-regional cooperation organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and many more are examples of regional cooperation and integration. In South Asia, regionalism in the form of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in 1985 with the aim of “promoting economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region of South Asia”. However, SAARC failed to achieve the expected results due to a hostile and unstable regional environment and mistrust. In the era of regionalism, revitalizing SAARC is of paramount importance for regional peace, stability and prosperity. It is imperative that the SAARC be revived for the benefit of South Asia and the rest of the world.
Residents of the Indian subcontinent today are more polarized and enraged than ever. Emotion is an integral part of the statecraft of India’s right-wing administration. Following decades of irresponsible behavior by state and non-state entities, the region has become a dangerous place to live. As tense as the fighting along the Line of Control, Pakistan has handled the issue with considerable maturity.
India’s decision to skip the 2016 SAARC summit in Islamabad was premature and damaging. Due to India’s actions, all members of the group were put in danger. As long as Pakistan remains a party to the agreement, India will not cooperate with other nations. There are no Pakistani, Afghan or Maldivian representatives in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The Maldives, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rest of the SAARC countries are not included in this group. Because India disapproves, Pakistan has not been able to establish an embassy in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, for the time being. The only city in South Asia without a Pakistani diplomatic mission is Thimphu, but that may soon change.
Regardless of what people say about SAARC, it doesn’t matter. The group itself has the key to finding a solution. Despite several problems, SAARC managed to stay united. We can’t let it slip away, not even for a second. In the rest of the globe, India can only reach Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Also, Pakistan is India’s only means of access to the western and northern regions. For the South Asian subcontinent to develop, the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) must be implemented.
At the upcoming SAARC summit in Colombo, India and Pakistan are expected to discuss ways to strengthen their economic and cultural ties. Additionally, South Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. It is in the best position to influence the future of the global economy due to its huge young population and the fact that most of them are just starting their first school. Those in Pakistan and India will be harmed by their political and religious differences.
With no immediate economic expansion, India and Pakistan need to agree on an economic framework for the future. A closer relationship with Pakistan’s neighbors in the Indian Ocean, such as Sri Lanka, could benefit from this agreement. Bangladesh and the Maldives are also nearby. Culturally, South Asia has many similarities. South Asians share a wide range of cultural traits and hobbies while living in very diverse regions with very distinct climatic conditions, languages and religions. There will be increased regional integration, whether the political divide is fueled by security concerns or ideological ideas. We reap the benefits of humanistic synergy when culture and business work together.
Even though Nepal and Maldives are members of SAARC, many people only see the ties between India and Pakistan when discussing SAARC. It is true that the smaller nations of the region will reap the greatest benefits by collaborating with their neighbors. It is important for Pakistan and India to remember that SAARC is not just a battle between India and Pakistan. Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman met with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Himalayan leaders Birendra and Jigme Singye Wangchuck in Dhaka in 1985 with the aim of promoting peace. This ambition was dashed when India and its closest allies failed to attend the Islamabad summit in 2016. As a result, the ball was handed to India. As the largest member, India has a responsibility to be mature and generous. Accordingly, India and Pakistan should recommit to improving South Asia for the benefit of both their own people and those of their neighbors and allies in the region.
*The author holds an M.Phil from National Defense University and a freelance writer based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected].