The article talks about India’s pragmatic approach towards “neighbourhood first” policy and SAARC.
- The arguments about political courtesy and diplomatic protocol at the South Asian home ministers conference last week suggests how dysfunctional the regional forum, SAARC, has become.
- If SAARC is a political disaster, what happens to the regional strategy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
- PM tried to create the environment of “neighbourhood first”. Modi’s first diplomatic act two years ago was the invitation he extended to the leaders of the SAARC countries to attend the inauguration of his tenure as PM.
- Modi also announced a number of new initiatives at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu at the end of 2014.
- But Pakistan’s reluctance to sign the South Asian Motor Vehicle Agreement, that was ready for signature at the Kathmandu summit, made it quite clear that the civilian leaders in Islamabad were not free to build South Asian regionalism.
- This was not the first time, or the last, that Pakistan pulled back from agreements that its senior officials actively participated in drafting.
- There was, for example, a massive effort in the last years of the UPA government on bilateral trade liberalisation as well as efforts to boost energy and electricity exports. The initiative simply faded away as Islamabad held back.
- More recently, at the 2014 Kathmandu summit, Modi offered to build a SAARC satellite. The initiative, too, has been stalled by Pakistan.
- But, this time around though India is doing something very different: to move forward with other members of the SAARC.
- By deciding to sign the multilateral motor vehicle agreement with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, Modi has given a big boost to regional economic cooperation in the eastern part of the subcontinent.
- This process also opens the door for sub-regional economic cooperation that is allowed under the SAARC charter. India’s regional satellite will no longer be “SAARC satellite” because of Pakistan’s veto. But there nevertheless will be a “South Asian satellite” due to India’s pragmatism.
- India’s new approach has been called by some as “SAARC Minus Pakistan”. But that is not accurate.
- For the new approach does not mean India will simply give up on SAARC or Pakistan. What Delhi has done is to create a pragmatic “two-speed SAARC” that will not let Pakistan hold others in the region to ransom.
- While, the decision to participate in the SAARC home ministers conference also underlines Delhi’s refusal to give up on the regional forum.
- India’s patience with Pakistan and persistence with SAARC, however, must be complemented by a very active engagement with the rest of the subcontinent through all available means, unilateral, bilateral, sub-regional and trans-regional.
The differences and limited progress of SAARC suggests that the forum is becoming dysfunctional. In the light of this statement, comment on the India’s policy of “SAARC Minus Pakistan” for regional progress. Also give your opinion on the future of SAARC.
- India’s policy of working with other members of SAARC will benefit the region.
- But, we cannot give up on the regional forum.
- There will be efforts to persuade Pakistan and create consensus for overall development of the region.