Regional Con­fronta­tion

In­dia back­ing out of the Is­lam­abad Sum­mit does not au­gur well for the group­ing’s fu­ture.

Southasia - - REGION PAKISTAN -

Founded at Dhaka in 1985, with great ex­pec­ta­tions, the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Regional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC), has de­gen­er­ated into an As­so­ci­a­tion for Regional Con­fronta­tion in­stead of Co­op­er­a­tion.

It was a dream con­cept with am­bi­tious goals. The brain­child of the late Bangladesh pres­i­dent Gen­eral Zi­aur Rah­man, it en­vis­aged an or­gan­i­sa­tion on the pat­tern of the Euro­pean Union, with free trade, visa-less travel, cus­toms union, com­mon mar­ket, a com­mon cur­rency and, per­haps, even a com­mon de­fence at some stage. But, for any fo­rum with In­dia and Pak­istan as mem­bers, it would be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect unity. They fight like Kilkenny cats when­ever they get to­gether and vi­ti­ate the at­mos­phere.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion boasts six apex

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By S.G. Ji­la­nee bod­ies, namely, SAARC Cham­ber of Com­merce & In­dus­try, South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Regional Co­op­er­a­tion In Law, South Asian Fed­er­a­tion of Ac­coun­tants, South Asia Foun­da­tion, South Asia Ini­tia­tive to End Vi­o­lence Against Chil­dren and Foun­da­tion of SAARC Writers and Lit­er­a­ture.

Be­sides, there are regional cen­ters lo­cated in mem­ber coun­tries such as Agri­cul­tural Cen­tre, Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Re­search Cen­tre, Forestry Cen­tre, Devel­op­ment Fund, Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Cen­tre, Doc­u­men­ta­tion Cen­tre, Coastal Zone Man­age­ment Cen­tre, SAARC In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and HIV/AIDS Cen­tre, Hu­man Re­sources Devel­op­ment Cen­tre, Energy Cen­tre and Cul­tural Cen­tre.

How these bod­ies and cen­tres func­tion and what they have so far achieved does not re­ceive the light of day. None­the­less the or­ga­ni­za­tion has been limp­ing along all these years with its sec­re­tar­iat in Nepal.

A South Asian Free Trade Agree­ment (SAFTA) was launched in 2006 but in­traSAARC trade amounts to just a lit­tle over 1% of SAARC's GDP. In con­trast, in ASEAN ( which is ac­tu­ally smaller than SAARC in terms of the size of the econ­omy) the in­tra-bloc trade stands at 10% of its GDP.

In an ideal sit­u­a­tion un­der SAFTA, trans­port would have plied be­tween Afghanistan and Nepal or Bangladesh across Pak­istan and In­dia with goods. But Pak­istan does not al­low over­land trade be­tween In­dia and Afghanistan across its ter­ri­tory.

Due to the eter­nal ri­valry be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia, each has tried to

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