India's 'surgical strikes' and the SAARC Summit | ORF

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC was initiated by the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Later – on Afghanistan joined to the organization of regional cooperating. This South Asian organization was initiated for the reason of promoting each member country’s economic uplifting along with social and cultural development within the region. Further, they want to keep the friendship and cooperation with other developing countries in the region while avoiding bilateral and controversial issues.

The emergence of SAARC led to different reasons as the appearance of the bipolar system at the international level, the former colonial states becoming sovereign nation-states and also bringing cold war issues to regional cooperation.          

India’s role is a decisive part in the future of SAARC

India as an emerging superpower in the world has made great changes during the past few years in social, economic, scientific and military aspects. In the Indo-Pacific region, India is very crucial due to its capabilities in power rivalry in various aspects. Its ability to make effective changes within the indo-pacific region has led the world to predict that India will soon overpower China in future years. India has risen to a certain level that is considered as one of the potential superpowers in the world. Its potentiality has reached due to its vast territory, military power, strong leaders, and rapid economic growth during the past few years and also being the Cultural Centre of South Asia. Along with these India spends more and more on military services. For the first reason, it is assumable that India can play a major role in changing deciding the future of SAARC to be useful to the region or not.

SAARC appeared brightly in the past. When compared to other regions in the world, large numbers of people in SAARC countries are relying on agriculture. Lack of education, insufficient knowledge and resources for science and technology and overpopulation are the struggling issues in the region. Regional cooperation was somehow appeared due to each state’s desires to fulfil. For example, India was making a huge effort to build their economic and political stability. India wanted to stabilize its economy by developing its infrastructure and expanding its trade with other South Asian countries.

South Asian region is full of opportunities and challenges. People have embraced varied religions, languages, traditions, races; values etc. Challenging issues in the region are identified as poverty, illiteracy, underdevelopment, racial conflicts, and terrorism in the region. When power reached one nation, that particular nation is acting towards nationalism or isolationism. But in this case, India could not provide itself towards isolationism form the developments happening in the region due to the threats which might come from Pakistan and China. Pakistan does not want India to be a dominant power in the region. This lets the readers decide that countries are controlled by countries.

SAARC’S Failure

Currently, SAARC is an unsuccessful organization in achieving its goal. One reason for the failure of reaching its objectives can be the on-going conflict between India and Pakistan. There is no trade connection between these two countries. Since this conflict involves major two powers in the South Asian region, the failure of reaching SAARC’s potential can be due to lack of trade connections. This can be an effective reason. South Asian region contains one of the future superpowers. India – the emerging superpower can easily remove the barriers of SAARC becoming devalued. Trade should be increased within SAARC countries.

India is influential to the whole region. Economic growth is one objective of SAARC. If India opens its hands for trade connection increment with Pakistan at a lower tariff, SAARC can be uplifted to a certain level since India is considered as the most populous country in the world.

Poverty eradication and improving the quality of life are other objectives of SAARC. High population growth made the issue of poverty in India. According to the researches, it has been found out that India’s poverty rate is nearly 22% of its population as 1, 37 billion. Up-rising health and education, food security, the role of women, smuggling, and prostitution are the concepts to be reformed in India. Since India has the capacity and resources, SAARC can be refuelled if these concepts are implemented. Because it changes the massive population and other countries may be influenced by India. Also, India seems as a hegemonic power in the South Asian region by other south Asian small countries. By other international forces, India’s nuclear capabilities are a threat to world peace and security. Its nuclear options can be another reason for SAARC’s failure.

South Asian region is the most populous among other regions but with most lacking literacy and quality of their lives. Democratization has broken its barriers. For this case, it is important to elect or choose wise leaders to rule the citizens. South Asians political systems are totally different from others and also the way of the on-going political system carries a lot of issues in political and economic aspects.

Countries within this region face many internal competitions. Bilateral competitions for apparel section, tea & rice exporting, etc. in the world market.

Taking cultural aspect into an account, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka are more towards Indian culture embracing Hinduism or Buddhism. But Pakistan is more Islamic and prefers having ties with Islamic states.

Terrorism is another serious issue which leads to the instability of the region. Pakistan is where we can witness this issue anytime. Also, the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is a good example of the never-ending terrorism in the region. During the past few decades, even Sri Lanka had to face terrorists’ incidents for over 30 years. Nepal & India too underwent terrorists’ movements which caused death for thousands of innocents.

Role of India in the South Asian region seems to be domination. This can be predicted due to India’s area, population, technological advance, military power and etc. Its geography is another vital fact that India shares its borders with every other South Asian country. This makes other countries to depend on India.

Certainly, India is very crucial to this region. Importance of the hegemony is unavoidable when considering South Asia and SAARC. India shares land borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh also it shares maritime borders with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India keeps on interfering to the internal affairs on South Asian countries. For example, when Sri Lanka was struggling against terrorism during the ’80s, India attempted many times to intervene in Sri Lanka’s affairs. One time, when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister in India when Sri Lanka was fighting against terrorism, India has put Dhal to northern Sri Lanka by air without getting permission from the Sri Lankan government. And also when Sri Lanka asked to remove the India Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) from Sri Lanka, India let IPKF stay in Sri Lanka.

Kargil war is another situation where trust is lacking and shows great enemies in SAARC countries. SAARC’s failure is mainly due to bilateral issues. Issues between India and Bangladesh over water and refugee, India and Nepal’s the trade and transit agreement, Bhutan and Nepal’s ethnic conflict, these are bilateral disputes which make the SAARC a failed organization. If these conflicts are sorted to a considerable level where all the SAARC countries are agreed on a balanced statement, SAARC can be rebuilt with trust.  These are some examples to show how India is relative to each SAARC member country in the region of South Asia.

India becoming wide

India is slowly making its influence over the region. The current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to make stronger and closer relationships between the neighbour countries. He wants all the SAARC countries to get involved in developing, surviving and prospering the South Asian region. Also, he is much need for making solid ties for trade and economic co-operation.               

India is opening its hands to the trade and as a major step forward, they have already started building the Chabhar Port in Iran. Gradually India is trying to win the power rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region. Large industrial areas, enough of human and material resources, existing economic infrastructure all represent the capability of this territory where these assets can be used beyond India’s boundaries to other countries to increase the regional cooperation. India has been keeping faith in regional cooperation. Since the establishment of SAARC in 1985, the South Asian region has been forming for regional cooperation due to all the summit discussion which happened from time to time.

India has made many effective and important statements during each and every SAARC summits which gives importance to regional cooperation within south Asian countries.

Regarding all the above ideas, coming to a point that India can be the first move to untangle all the disputes and broaden the trade between South Asia. While agreements like SAPTA, making benefits to all South Asian countries equally and mutually.

Conclusion

India – the regional superpower, can play a decisive role in the South Asian region as it can assist and make others join to achieve free trade access for world market crossing the borders of South Asia. Also, India can help to strengthen the trust between countries to work together to achieve the objectives of SAARC since India’s potentiality is crucial in this matter. Further, it is also the responsibility of all SAARC member countries to get along with each country and to give up all the bilateral conflicts while dedicating to strengthen and emerge the SAARC’s capabilities to reach its goals.

image: India’s surgical strikes and the SAARC summit

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