Even in the age of globalisation, the importance of bilateral and regional forums has not gone away. When the bilateral cooperation between the nations fails to yield preferred results, they find it necessary to create regional organisations to deal with their common problems. The notion and practice of regionalism began to sprout following the World War II. In 1970s, it lost some allure and relevance but it gained strength through the 1980s and 1990s and evolved as the potent force of globalisation. While becoming a component of gargantuan process of globalisation that has enabled the world to come closer, regionalism also stands to minimise the malaise of economic globalisation. Many regional groups such as ASEAN and European Union flourished and fared well over the decades while some others like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have faltered in meeting their stated objectives and vision despite having huge prospect.
Founded in 1985, SAARC comprises the 3 per cent of world’s area and 21 per cent of world population. The club of eight South Asian nations shelter diverse ancient civilisations. They share identical culture and history but lack of political trust and emergence of the undesirable and unfortunate events have continued to bog down the SAARC process, stunting the economic, social and cultural integration of the region. The SAARC charter that heralded a new era of regional cooperation states that it promotes the welfare of the peoples of South Asia, improves their quality of life, accelerates economic growth, social progress and cultural development and provides all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potentials.
Sad to say, the SAARC has been unable to realise the full potentials of its citizens, thanks to the India-Pakistan friction that has not only stalled its process but also turned it into a dysfunctional entity. The 19th SAARC Summit, scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016, was postponed for indefinite period after India walked out of it, blaming Pakistan’s hand in terrorist attack in Uri of India-administered Kashmir but Pakistan has strongly denied the charges. Other SAARC members have been mere spectators to their deepening conflict. As the SAARC forum is not allowed to discuss the bilateral issues, it is often struck down by the recurring India-Pak tension that has again grown following the new development in the Indian-administered Kashmir.
Nepal as the current chair of SAARC is doing its best to revive the regional body. In its latest bid, Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali tried to bring Indian and Pakistani foreign minister to a common table and reduce their hostility and trust deficit. He hosted the informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York the other day. The acrimonious feelings of the two nuclear powers reflected in the meeting but it was opportune moment for the both sides to build confidence and end the animosity. FM Gyawali noted that strong cooperation was needed to make the SAARC vibrant and address the challenges of poverty, inequality, underdevelopment, climate change and natural disasters facing the region. It is imperative for the SAARC member states to boost regional cooperation for enhanced trade, investment, connectivity, tourism, culture, security and peace. It is getting delayed in adopting the fresh approach to revive the SAARC and make it functional organisation.