Trust deficit, cross border terrorism biggest challenges before SAARC

Mumbai: Trust deficit and cross border terrorism were seen as the biggest challenges for SAARC. Speaker after speaker touched upon this at an international conference on the ‘Changing Dynamics in SAARC: Challenges and Opportunities in the Region’ which began here on Friday.

Academicians and diplomats from India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal are participating in the two-day conference organised by the political science department of NES Ratnam College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Bhandup. Other issues that were discussed included human rights, nationalism, terrorism, bilateral tensions and relations, boundaries, and water disputes in the SAARC region.

Dr. R. Varadarajan, founder-president of the host institution, said the objective behind this conference is to bring people together to discuss peace, prosperity and progress of this region.

Ajaneesh Kumar, deputy director of the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, spoke on the relevance of SAARC in today’s context along with the challenges it needs to encounter.

He said, “Prime Minister Modi’s proactive foreign policy has helped SAARC revive as an important regional corporation. Policies like ‘Neighbourhood First’ by the Indian government has helped SAARC grow and achieve the objectives it was created for.”

However, Dhan Prasad Pandit, Professor of Political Science from Tribhuwan University, Kathmandu mentioned that SAARC was also facing an existential crisis with its relevance coming under question.

“SAARC itself is a big question mark now,” he said.

Issues of trust deficit and cross border terrorism were felt to be the biggest challenges for the region. Mr. Kumar explained that SAARC’s intra-regional trade was relatively poor.

“Plenty of good policies and agreements have not been signed because of a certain country’s intransient approach. If our leaders put away their differences for the larger benefit of this region, SAARC will become more relevant,” he said.

Amena Mohsin, Professor of International relations, University of Dhaka said that terrorism continued to be the biggest challenge. “But, this perpetual sense of distrust among member nations has resulted in SAARC countries not even having a free trade agreement,” Ms. Mohsin said.

Delegates ended the day with great hope for SAARC’s future and emphasised on a greater Indian role. “People of the region have not given up hope and India’s role, as the most developed nation, in the region is vital. Also, every time a difficulty has cropped up in the region, India has offered help and fulfilled responsibilities,” said Abdul Rasheed Ali, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, The Maldives National University.

The conference also saw over 60 delegates participating with research scholars from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Aligarh Muslim University presenting their papers.

The event was sponsored by Indian Council of World Affairs, Indian Council of Social Science Research and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 4:20:22 am |