South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formed in 1983, and in the very first meeting the member-countries — India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (Afghanistan was inducted in 2007) — resolved that terrorism had to be eradicated.
But even after three decades, ‘terrorism’ was the only reason that further distanced the countries, especially the two main players – India and Pakistan.
“Is this not a failure of SAARC?” questioned Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University G. Nageswara Rao at the inaugural of the two-day international seminar on, ‘Three decades of SAARC: A critical appraisal’, here on Thursday.
According to Prof. Nageswara Rao, instead of deliberating on mutual understanding and cooperation, for which SAARC had been formed, the member-countries were trying to pull the other down at international forums.
“It is the member-countries that have objected India’s entry into the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
Concurring with the viewpoint, former Vice-Chancellor of Central University, Sikkim, Mahendra P Lama, said: “SAARC could have become flying geese. But the member-countries, fearing India’s domination, have pulled it down.”
On the present status of SAARC, he said: “It is like India-Pakistan relations – no war no peace.”
He said, mistrust and inhibitions among the member-countries were not letting SAARC flourish.
“The member-countries have to borrow a few pages from organisations such as ASEAN and European Union. Where borders have become softer and cooperation is through projects,” he said.
According to Prof. Lama, the military-centric borders such as Durand Line, Radcliffe Line, and McMohan Line had actually driven the wedge permanently between the member-countries and dismantled the history and cross-cultural diversity. “Borders are viewed as national security threat. For the SAARC model to succeed, borders should be made softer and people-centric projects should be taken up,” he said.
M. Prasada Rao, Director of SAARC Centre, AU, said that the SAARC nations comprise 23 % of the global population, but it accounted for only 6% of the global purchasing power, 2 % of trade, and 3 % of FDI. This indicated its failure when compared to other groups of nations and blocs, Prof. Rao said.
Kiran Pandya, professor from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, spoke.