Relevance of SAARC
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia. The union consists of 8 member states-- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The foundation of SAARC was laid in 1985 in Dhaka. SAARC is headquartered at Kathmandu, Nepal. SAARC intended to promote the development of regional and economic integration. The important agreements with which SAARC came up are as following-
- It has launched the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in 2006. The objective of SAFTA is to reduce custom duties on all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.
- The framework agreement for energy cooperation in south Asian region. This agreement would focus on electricity supply in the region.
- The organization has also came up with Visa exemption scheme for a specific categories of dignitaries.
- There are also regional railways development scheme, motor vehicle scheme etc. going on in the organization.
- There is also a plan of launching SAARC regional satellite.
SAARC has been regarded as a game change in south Asian regional development. However, multiple issues arise that are hindering the progress aspect of this organizations. They are-
- Bilateral Issues between India and Pakistan-- The trust deficit between India and Pakistan is the main reason why the prospect of SAARC is in dilemma. Issues like trans-border terrorism from Pakistan makes the situation worse in contemporary time. Along with it, Pakistan decided not to sign agreement on regional connectivity at Kathmandu summit in 2014.
- Political instability-- The current chaotic and unstable political condition in the regional states like Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan and Nepal also make the union less empowered in decision making and implementations.
- Emergence of China-- China's influence in the region is higher than ever before. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is connecting different parts of South Asia to the adjoining provinces of China. India's bilateral issues with other countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also causes a trust issue and therefore these South Asian nations are viewing China as an instrument to bargain with India.
- Alternative Treaties-- The South Asian nations are finding other alternative in bilateral and multilateral modes. India moved on to focus on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) forum for sub-regional cooperation in the eastern subcontinent. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) forum was also being reactivated.
India is the biggest and economically developed nation among SAARC nations. Although SAARC is infected with multiple issues like terrorism, border disputes, tax issues etc., it can also play a vital role in enhancing mutual trust, a safe trade environment in the region. Besides trade, peaceful development of Afghanistan is in the interest of the region as terrorism is mainly sourced from unstable states.
Area where SAARC came up with limitations is India-Pakistan conflict nearly over all issues. However, both the nations should come up with some resolve, otherwise setbacks will be suffered by the people of both the nations and by the region as a whole.
Multiple Choice Question-
Q. Which among the following are true with respect to SAARC?
1. It includes 8 nations in the region from the time of its establishment.
2. It was established in 1985.
3. First SAARC summit was held in Nepal.
4. 20th SAARC summit is scheduled to be held in 2018.
(a). Only 1, 2, and 4 are true
(b). Only 2, 3 and 4 are true.
(c). Only 2 and 4 are true.
(d). Only 3 and 4 are true.
Hint-There were 7 member from the time of establishment of SAARC. The first meeting of SAARC was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Question over the relevance of SAARC ban be asked in both GS 2 or GS 3. The format may be-
Q. SAARC is a forum not only of economic ties, it can help in building mutual trust in all aspect of collaboration. Discuss some important agreements under SAARC forum. Also discuss why SAARC is loosing its relevance in contemporary time.
Hint-- Try to stick with the demand of the question. Do not indulge too much in any issue. More the dimensions one touch, better would be the answer.