THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 October 2018 (Farewell to South Asia)

Farewell to South Asia

Mains Paper: 2 | IR 
Prelims level: BIMSTEC forum
Mains level: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate


  • According to reports, three of the eight South Asian foreign ministers left the room after making their speeches at the annual gathering in New York.
  • They were from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India.
  • But it also says something about the deepening crisis of credibility of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
  • A meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan did not take place.
  • India, of course, is not the only one having problems with Pakistan.

Important highlight of this meeting 

  • India’s refusal to engage Pakistan unless Islamabad addresses its concerns on cross-border terrorism, has also held up the next SAARC summit in Islamabad.
  • All countries are finding alternatives.
  • Modi moved to focus on the so-called BBIN forum that brings together four countries of South Asia — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
  • The Modi government has also sought to reactivate the BIMSTEC forum that brings the BBIN countries as well as Sri Lanka with Myanmar and Thailand.
  • The idea of a Bay of Bengal community is gaining traction by the day.  But not everyone in these subregional and trans-regional groupings has the same dream.
  • Even as Kathmandu sleeps in the BBIN and BIMSTEC beds, sections of Nepal’s ruling elite want to “escape” South Asia into the vast folds of the Chinese embrace.
  • Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has begun to describe itself as an Indian Ocean country.
  • That brings us to the question of China, whose Belt and Road Initiative is connecting different parts of South Asia to the adjoining provinces of China.
  • Pakistan with Xinjiang, Nepal and Bhutan with Tibet, and Bangladesh with Yunnan.
  • Beijing also seeks to integrate Maldives and Sri Lanka into its maritime strategy.

Way forward 

  • Meanwhile, Washington is changing its geopolitical playbook for our neighbourhood. Its new imagination privileges India and merges the rest of the Subcontinent into the vast Indo-Pacific.
  • Japan’s premier Shinzo Abe defined our region as the confluence of two seas (the Indian and Pacific Oceans) and two continents (Africa and Asia).
  • India has no reason to shed tears for the SAARC. 
  • In fact, it was never much of a game.Change is the only enduring fact of life. How we imagine and construct regions changes according to circumstances. The British Raj extended from Aden to Malacca at its peak.
  • “South East Asia” did not exist until the Second World War. The “Asia-Pacific” came into usage only in the late 1980s.
  • The “Indo-Pacific” was a novelty a decade ago.  “Political South Asia” was an invention of the 1980s. It has not survived the test of time.
  • As India’s footprint goes way beyond the Subcontinent, Bangladesh becomes the throbbing heart of the Bay of Bengal and an economic bridge to East Asia and Sri Lanka emerges as an Indian Ocean hub, Delhi needs to reimagine its economic and political geography.

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UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) With reference to the first Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, Disaster Management Exercise (BIMSTEC DMEx- 2017), consider the following statements:
1. Its primary objective is to institutionalize regional cooperation on disaster response among member countries.
2. It was conducted by the National Disaster Response Force.
3. It was recently held in New Delhi.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer:  D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) How BIMSTEC forum meet is significance for SAARC countries?