SAARC: South Asia's crippled regional body - By Alastair Lawson Back   Home  
Much to the frustration of the smaller countries that make up the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (Saarc), the organisation has not emulated the success of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

Ever since its inception in 1985, Saarc has been hamstrung by the ongoing hostility between India and Pakistan.

The organisation is supposed to meet once every year, but tension between the two countries has meant that the latest meeting has been delayed by more than 24 months.

India said in 1999 that it would not attend a Saarc meeting because the Pakistani leader, Pervez Musharraf, was a dictator and not representative of his people.

Low expectations

Perhaps the only success to arise out of the meeting between President Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the Agra summit of 2001 was an agreement to reconvene Saarc.

But following the attacks on the Indian parliament last month, it appeared doubtful at one stage whether the meeting would go ahead at all.

The fact that it has taken place has been hailed as a success by diplomats and politicians from the smaller Saarc countries (Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan).

But many concede in private that there will not be too many more positive developments to emerge from the meeting.

Crippling clause

That is in part because Saarc's constitution says that the organisation should not discuss contentious bilateral issues.

The Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, used this argument to defend his country's refusal to meet Pakistani officials on the sidelines of Saarc, even though officials from the two delegations are staying in the same hotel.

President Musharraf said in a recent interview that Saarc's failure to discuss bilateral issues is the reason why the organisation is so crippled.

The final resolution is not likely to differ significantly from the declaration agreed at the last Saarc summit in Sri Lanka in 1998.

It will contain a commitment to take measures towards making South Asia a free trade area, steps to combat drug smuggling, and initiatives to increase co-operation in the fields of science and technology.

The resolution will also say that more cultural exchanges should be arranged between Saarc members.

It will recommend that member countries allow more free movement of journalists.

Combating terrorism

Perhaps the most controversial part of the resolution will be a call for a review of the declaration agreed by Saarc in 1987 on combating terrorism.

It will say that more effective measures are required to combat terrorism similar to that passed by the United Nations following the attack on the World Trade Center in September.

India argues that this resolution is likely to sit uncomfortably with Pakistan's stance that it only provides moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri militant groups.

Pakistan says that it condemns all forms of terrorism, but not those which it says are engaged in the freedom struggle in Kashmir.
Published in BBC. Any organization say it SAARC or UN will succeed only if the member countries has a strong will and commitment to resolve tensions between them. How can Pakistan expect Indian leaders to sit and talk with them when they support terrorists who are creating hovoc in India? Big countries like UK, US should learn to view all countries with equality. Why? they can go to any extent in hunt of terrorists that cause problems to them but countries like India should maintain restraint in doing the same??