SAARC revival

WHILE the future of South Asian Regional Cooperation (SAARC) appears to be in limbo due to intransigence and rigid behaviour of India, it is good to see that its other member states are making efforts to put some life into the regional union with aim to achieve the objectives for which it was created decades ago.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena who concluded his visit to Pakistan on Saturday held all encompassing talks both with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and President Mamnoon Hussain during which both the sides agreed to work for making the SAARC fully functional. In fact, the Sri Lankan President also extended support for holding SAARC summit in Pakistan that had to take place in Islamabad two years ago but India scuttled it for its own ulterior motives to malign and isolate Pakistan in whatever manner it could. Importantly, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi visited Nepal early this month during which the Nepalese government also announced its support of holding the SAARC summit at the earliest, which indeed is vital to not only discuss but also address problems and challenges standing in the way of bolstering trade and economic cooperation in the region. However, it is unfortunate, that India is making the regional organisation a hostage of its whims and hegemonic agenda. It has been India’s practice to always keep the weak regional countries at its tenterhooks and browbeat them into submission.
In this backdrop, when SAARC has been made dysfunctional, it is time for regional countries especially Pakistan and Sri Lanka to think out of box solutions to steer the regional union out of current dire strait. One option is its expansion and we understand that Pakistan had also proposed the inclusion of other countries such as China, Iran and Central Asian Republics into the SAARC. Geographical proximity of these countries serves a rational ground to make them permanent part of the organisation. This new arrangement or modification indeed will open new prospects and opportunities for the whole region and help make the SAARC a vibrant organisation free from the influence of any single country. We understand that revival of SAARC and making it an effective body — the one which could work efficiently to lift people out of backwardness, poverty, illiteracy, disease — lies in its expansion and time has come that Pakistan starts consultations with other regional countries to achieve this objective.

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