SAARC Secretary General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon recently visited Pakistan and met Prime Minister Imran Khan in his office on December 24. Khan expressed the hope to host the SAARC summit in Pakistan when the man-made obstacle created in his path is lifted. during the meeting with the Secretary General.

It is relevant to mention that SAARC is currently inactive due to the Indo-Pak dispute. Pakistan. But this time, all regional stakeholders, including Pakistan and India, should work together to revive SAARC to maximize regional interests. India should understand the current regional issues and think pragmatically about relaunching SAARC. Pakistan needs to engage more diplomatically with others.

The official journey of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) began in 1985 when seven states, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, formed this regional platform. Later in 2007, Afghanistan joined SAARC. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are island states. In contrast, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan are landlocked countries. Only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have both extensive land borders and coastlines.

Considering the progress made by other regions in increasing regional communication and cooperation, the same development of this region is possible if communication and cooperation among the states of this region can be increased to the desired level.

The EU, ASEAN, GCC and other regional blocs have achieved prosperity by forming regional alliances. Citizens of these regional alliances, with the exception of some member states, are not required to obtain visas if they wish to travel from one allied country to another. The citizens of these regions can travel from one country to another by road, rail, sea or air without any hindrance in their respective territories. Even the citizens of these regions can travel from one country to another by private car. These regional alliances give more importance to regional trade in the development of their respective regions. This has accelerated the development of these regions to increase regional trade.

After the establishment of SAARC, it was hoped that citizens of one country could travel to another without a visa. A country would provide transit facilities to another country as needed, including travel from one country to another by private car. But this goal has not yet been reached. And the prospect of achieving this in the near future is not very bright.

The main objective of establishing SAARC was to make the region one of the most prosperous in the world by improving regional connectivity and cooperation. But, almost 30 years after its creation, it is clear that there is still a long way to go to achieve this goal.

This requires the SAARC countries to show the highest level of friendship and harmony to one another and to make the best use of opportunities and cooperation. All member states should relaunch SAARC as a regional platform

India is the largest of the ASACR countries in terms of size and population. Second place belongs to Pakistan. Prior to the establishment of SAARC, India and Pakistan were involved in three total wars. The state of Bangladesh was born in Pakistan in 1971 through a bitter struggle. Perhaps this context also prevented the region from advancing as much as other blocs.

The ASACR region is home to more than a quarter of the world’s population. This region is the most populous region in the world. In recent times, countries in the region have made great strides in the area of ​​agriculture. Although the industrial development of the region is promising, there is a need to harness the potential for further development along the way. The scope of regional trade between SAARC countries is still limited. If this scope is broadened, SAARC member states will be able to achieve unprecedented development within their own borders.

Among the SAARC countries, Nepal and Bhutan are bounded on the east, west and south by India. Although the two states are bordered by China on the north side, their entire border is rugged. So, communication in this direction is very impenetrable. Nepal and Bhutan depend entirely on India for foreign trade. Although these two countries have long demanded transit facilities from the regional structure of SAARC through the two seaports of Chittagong and Mongla in Bangladesh, the slow implementation has tarnished the spirit of SAARC.

The seven states of eastern India are called the Seven Sisters. As these seven states are surrounded by other states, these states maintain communication with the Indian mainland through a narrow road called the Chicken Neck Corridor. Communication by this route is long and expensive. India wants to establish road, rail and waterway transit with these seven states through Bangladesh. Although the transit is open by water, it is not successful throughout the year due to the poor navigability of the rivers in different places.

On the other hand, Bangladesh is in the process of developing the necessary infrastructure for transit by road and rail for transit use. Bangladesh wishes to be a transit hub between South Asia and South East Asia. Bangladesh is focusing more on regional connectivity. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is liberal in this regard. She always urges countries in the region to be connected. She wants to make way for Nepal and Bhutan to use Bangladesh’s seaports, such as Chattogram, Mangla and Payra ports, and Saidpur airport in Nilphamari.

There is the Afghan crisis. A platform of regional countries like SAARC is needed to address these issues. We have seen the recent “OIC Moot” in Islamabad organized by Pakistan. All participants agreed to work together to avert the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The OIC as a platform for Muslim countries is successful in this regard. By now, countries in the South Asian region should understand that Afghanistan is also a regional country. It is the responsibility of all countries in South Asia to tackle common regional issues such as the Afghan humanitarian disaster or the Rohingya refugee crisis. Obviously, SAARC can be an effective tool and platform to ensure this. It is therefore time to revive the dormant SAARC to ensure that the common regional problem is resolved.

Meanwhile, 54 common rivers that flow through India flow into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. By unilaterally withdrawing water from most of these upstream rivers, India uses it to maintain the navigability of inland rivers, including hydropower generation and irrigation in agriculture. Bangladesh has faced an unfavorable situation due to India’s unilateral water withdrawal and the conscience of SAARC never allows one neighboring state to create an unfavorable environment for another neighbor. India should work with Bangladesh to improve regional advantages. India is expected to conclude a fair Teesta agreement with Bangladesh soon to maximize mutual benefits. As a big fish in this region, he has a certain responsibility towards others.

Ignoring and ignoring the spirit of SAARC, as other SAARC member states are smaller than it, India has always exhibited a great vicious attitude towards other SAARC member states. Due to this behavior of India, SAARC fails to achieve its objective on the one hand and the political stability of other SAARC member states is also threatened on the other hand.

Although India has road and rail links with Bangladesh and Pakistan, trade is done by transshipment due to the lack of transit facilities. Communication is not very easy because the citizens of these three countries also need a visa to communicate. It is as easy as possible for an Indian citizen to travel to these two countries by getting a visa from Bangladesh and Pakistan; It is not easy for the citizens of these two countries to travel to this country by getting an Indian visa.

At present, trade between Nepal and Bhutan with Bangladesh is handled by transshipment in the absence of transit. As a result, the import and export expenses of the two states are increased.

India’s economy is growing rapidly. The economy of Bangladesh is also booming day by day. In addition, the economies of all other South Asian countries are also growing. SAARC can play its role in creating economic opportunities in member countries. In the framework of regional cooperation, the following arrangements should be introduced to take advantage of this platform:

  • Transit facilities between SAARC countries are open
  • The visa system is abolished
  • One country’s currency is easily exchanged in another country or a common currency is introduced
  • The possibility of traveling from one country to another by private car is introduced
  • The flow of electricity, gas, oil and water from one country to another is made readily available
  • The same SIM card can be used to talk from one country to another easily and inexpensively
  • Trade reach is maximized
  • The priority should be the well-being of the inhabitants of the region, economic integration and regional prosperity.

This requires the SAARC countries to show the highest level of friendship and harmony to one another and to make the best use of opportunities and cooperation. All Member States should relaunch SAARC as a regional platform.

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