Saturday, 2 March, 2024

Making SAARC Functional

Despite having a huge potential for peace, development and prosperity for its over 1.7 billion people, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has been unable to move ahead due to the recurrent tension between India and Pakistan. Its 19th Summit, slated for November 2016 in Islamabad, Pakistan, was cancelled owing to the India-Pakistan conflict. As the current chair, Nepal is impatient to hand over the mantle of its leadership to Pakistan. For this to happen, the SAARC Summit must be held but there is now slim chance that the Summit will take place any time soon. As per the SAARC Charter, all member states should forge consensus to organise its Summit as well as make major decisions. If a member shows reservation about it, the giant regional body can’t do anything.

Therefore, broad understanding, unanimity and collaboration form the cornerstone of the SAARC to make it vibrant, dynamic and functional. The other day Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli highlighted the core principle and spirit of the SAARC and urged the member states to take steps to realise its lofty goals. According to the news report carried by this daily, PM Oli has called for a consensus among the member nations to hold its 19th summit at the earliest. He said: “The 19th SAARC Summit has remained a long overdue. We are eagerly looking forward to hand over the chairmanship to Pakistan.” He was addressing a function at the SAARC Secretariat Office in Kathmandu Friday.

In 1985 when the SAARC was set up, its leaders had envisaged a peaceful and stable region that comprises 3 per cent of world’s area and 21 per cent of global population at the moment. There was a reason for them to nurture a vision of regional prosperity because eight nations affiliated to the SAARC share identical socio-cultural values and practices. They also suffer the similar problems such as poverty, ignorance, inequality, terrorism and backwardness. But lack of political trust and occasional flare-ups have precluded them from materialising their common objectives. The regional body basically aims to improve the quality of life of its people through trade integration and rapid economic growth. The SAARC has developed many institutional structures and mechanisms to this end. It has made several meaningful initiatives to unlock the potential of the region endowed with rare natural resources, ancient cultures, civilisations and intellectual traditions.

As PM Oli noted, there is the need for deeper integration among the SAARC member states. And the SAARC leaders have time and again expressed their commitment to revitalising SAARC as an effective vehicle to meet the development aspirations of its people. SAARC offers a robust platform for its leaders to share their views and find solution to their common problems. It is true the SAARC Charter does not allow its member to delve into the bilateral issues but when they sit together and brainstorm an array of relevant issues in an amicable atmosphere, this enables them to boost their confidence, trust and mutual bond, thereby reducing the tension pestering them at the bilateral level. Its leaders must not forget that the SAARC is an expression of regional solidarity and common identity. Now it is high time they set aside their bilateral differences and joined hands to revive the SAARC.