India’s attempts at sabotaging Saarc continue. In November 2016, New Delhi boycotted the 19th summit of the regional cooperation bloc over the unfounded assumptions about the Uri attack, and pressured Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Nepal to do the same. That resulted in Pakistan failing to host the biennial meeting. The 20th Saarc summit — that can be organised during 2018 and 2019 — is in doldrums too, with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj having already declared that there would be no Indian participation in the meeting of the Saarc heads of states. And very recently, an official of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan walked out of a meeting of the Saarc Chambers of Commerce and Industry on the pretext of an Azad Kashmir minister, Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed, being in attendance.
India’s actions to impede the Saarc process are part of its sinister bid to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and in all possible respects, albeit with no success. India is not interested in talks for peace with Pakistan, it’s not ready to play bilateral cricket, and it’s not even willing to maintain people-to-people contact. The Modi government’s acceptance of the Kartarpur corridor earlier this month only came half-heartedly, in a clear expression of disregard for the Imran Khan government’s initiative that only comes in pursuit of peace. The corridor to connect two Sikh shrines, one each in Pakistan and India, is a meaningful confidence-building measure having the potential to undo the current bilateral freeze between the two nuclear neighbours and push them to engage in a positive and purposeful manner. But India appears least interested.
India’s Pakistan-centric approach is a big impediment to the objectives of developing regional economy and promoting integration that Saarc was set up for. Founded in 1985, Saarc — now an eight-member bloc comprising Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — is yet unable to realise its true potential for peace and progress in South Asia via trade promotion as well as friendship and understanding among the member states. There can be no denying that Saarc is held hostage to the whims of its strongest member.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2018.