In hope of an effective SAARC Summit
Sunday, 03 August 2008

The 15th summit of the eight-member South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation opened in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo today though expectations are not very high. When the regional association was formed way back in 1985, there were high hopes that effective cooperation between the member states would change the face of South Asia where nearly one and half billion of the world’s population lives. This Association had all the potentials of transforming the region into a economic powerhouse and acting as a balance in the global power equation. It has failed principally because of the mistrust between three of its members—-India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Pakistan’s relations with India ever since the sub-continent was partitioned in 1947 has been strained. The two countries have fought three years and there is a section among the Pakistanis who believe that India was responsible for dismembering their country. On the other hand Bangladesh has always been in fear of Indian domination. Sri Lanka too believes that without India’s tacit support it would have been possible to tackle the LTTE militancy. Unfortunately, India has done precious little to allay the fears or suspicions of its neighbours. This may have been due to Indian establishment’s belief that India can go ahead alone without cooperation from its immediate neighbours. If SAARC could be made effective cooperation among its member countries would have had a multiplying effect on the region’s resources. India may be a new economic powerhouse but the fact remains that millions of Indian still groan under poverty, almost all of them earning less than one US dollar a day. There has of course been a lack of statesmanship in the grouping. Petty interests and differences overshadowed the huge prospects of development and prosperity. We hope the leaders will change their mindset and for once at least discuss ways and means for meaningful cooperation with open minds.

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