Monday, September 24, 2018 | ePaper
SAARC summit uncertain again!
For the second year in a row, there may be no SAARC summit. India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had pulled out of the 2016 SAARC summit citing Pakistan's open support to terrors that impacted all three countries.
Islamabad was supposed to host the 2016 summit, which had to be cancelled. This year too, there appears to be no move to hold the summit. SAARC summits are generally held in November.
As Sushma Swaraj met SAARC foreign ministers in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, India's disinterest in the summit was evident, which has resulted in a downgrading of the institution where India plays the lead role. With India-Pakistan bilateral relations in free-fall, it has had an impact on the South Asian body.
Swaraj did not refer to the uncertainties of the SAARC summit, but stressed the primacy given to removal of terrorism. "Regional prosperity, connectivity and cooperation can take place only in an atmosphere of peace and security.
It, however, remains at serious risk in the region... It is necessary for our region's survival that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support," she said.
Swaraj added that SAARC had failed to live up to its objectives, without a free trade system in place, or any agreement on trade in services, which actually makes South Asia one of the least connected regions in the world.
She listed the projects undertaken by India under the SAARC rubric. She said, "The South Asia Satellite, a first-of-its- kind initiative, was launched in May 2017. The project will touch the lives of the people in the region through its wide-ranging applications."
Instead, India has breathed new energy into BIMSTEC, by involving almost all South Asian nations in it, with the conspicuous absence of Pakistan, making it virtually a 'SAARC-minus-one' organisation.
In addition, the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) sub-grouping is making physical connectivity, along with rail and power-sharing systems, into a new model of cooperation.