Revival of SAARC

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PAKISTAN has once again renewed its commitment to regional cooperation by declaring it was ready to play its role for the revival of the moribund South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

In a tweet on the SAARC Charter Day observed on Thursday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the day was a reminder of the vast untapped potential of regional development, connectivity and cooperation among countries of South Asia.

He said the people of SAARC countries were a victim of these missed opportunities. The idea of creating a larger economic unit from smaller national economies is aimed at reducing unnecessary trade barriers between member states and to allow the free movement of goods.

Such economic blocs, especially the European Union played a significant role in the overall development of the member states as well as the regional economy and, therefore, motivated many other regions to follow suit.

The SAARC was also created with similar intentions way back in 1985 to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and improve their quality of life.

It was designed to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region by providing all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and realize their full potential.

Collectively, the SAARC member states have the potential to realize these cherished goals provided it is allowed to achieve progress purely on professional lines.

However, it is lamentable that the organization could not become a worthwhile entity mainly because of territorial disputes, political differences and designs of a member state to dominate it.

This is despite the fact that regional cooperation and inter-dependencies would have lowered the level of regional tension and confrontation, minimizing chances of a conflict or war.

It has rightly been surmised by analysts that the multilateral character of SAARC could not evolve due to the bilateral conflict between Pakistan and India.

While Pakistan has repeatedly been expressing its deep commitment to the SAARC processes, India’s designs can be gauged by the fact that it has not been allowing Pakistan to host the summit of the organization, which was due in 2016.

SAARC member countries are grappling with common issues like poverty, illiteracy and disease and revival of the Association could complement their efforts to address these challenges.

All of them can benefit a lot if they start working to strengthen cooperation in agricultural research as food security is a common problem besides infrastructure development, energy and easing business and trade environment.