Question: Even after 35 years of its origin, SAARC has remained a fringe player on global stage. Analyse the issues that has lead to its redundancy. Suggest measures to improve its efficacy.
Answer: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a multilateral grouping consisting of eight countries belonging to south Asian region. Major aim of this grouping is to create a common platform for welfare of countries of South Asia. However it has not materialised as envisioned due to various reasons.
Reasons for SAARC to be redundant
- Bilateral disputes
Unlike European multilateral groupings which are based on common welfare which ignores the bilateral issues, SAARC has turned into a platform where bilateral issues between countries dominate the agenda. This has prevented the grouping to develop into a more sophisticated one such as Eurozone.
- Lack of consensus
The members of SAARC lack the agenda when it comes for consensus on a common issue. This has prevented multinational projects from taking off. Bilateral issues have prevented consensus between countries to a large extent.
Ex: The SAARC satellite project sponsored and developed by India was rejected by Pakistan, thus preventing larger integration.
- China factor
China, being a regional and upcoming global leader doesn’t like to be kept away from major grouping especially in important region such as South Asia. It tries to prevent SAARC from taking off through its proxy Pakistan. It tries to hamper the progress by alternatively indulging in bilateral dealings with SAARC countries such as Nepal.
Measures to improve efficacy of SAARC
- SAARC minus Pakistan
Considering the impediments created by Pakistan it can be better if it is expelled or least asked to leave the grouping so that remaining countries can come together in consensus. But this will widen the trust gap between India and Pakistan, which is already deteriorating.
- Greater meet ups
The major failure of SAARC can be attributed to lack of meet-up between the countries especially owing to India’s opposition to Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir. If leaders of SAARC meet regularly, say once in three months, the situation can improve.
Efforts have to be taken to improve SAARC by overhauling its structure so that more benefits can be reaped.
Thus, SAARC has to be revived at the earliest considering its implications on trade and economy. If this does not materialise, alternative grouping like BIMSTEC can be improved further.