[op-ed snap] An Unwanted Past – India’s lack of enthusiasm for SAARC

  1. Theme: India’s disdain for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and its embrace of new global fraternities.
  2. India’s aspirations for power: The West represents the apex of power aspirations, but Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa—which with India make up the BRICS grouping—are good company to keep, while awaiting a permanent place at the high table.
  3. India’s lack of enthusiasm for SAARC: Because of India’ centrality within the political geography of the region, India feared that a regional grouping could become little more than a forum for all neighbouring countries to ventilate bilateral grievances.
  4. The last place India wants to be is in a neighbourhood group where its aspirations for regional hegemony are constantly challenged by smaller countries, where even the internal concord essential to projecting external strength continually eludes it
  5. Reasons behind ineffectiveness of SAARC: SAARC’s charter specifies that it would not deal with any issue of a bilateral character. This, in effect, neutralised much of the potential of the regional grouping because South Asia’s political geography makes almost every issue bilateral in nature, with India occupying one pole and the other countries by turn, the other.
  6. In its 31-year career, SAARC has on an average held one summit every 21 months. This does not speak of a spirit of great neighbourly cordiality since the SAARC charter commits member states to annual summits.
  7. Where common perceptions are possible because of shared geographical features, such as South Asia’s mountains and rivers, resource competition has impeded action, even at the risk of irreparable ecological damage.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations
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