INDIA has taken the right stand that terror and cooperation cannot go together. They are incompatible to each other’s relations. Terror has cast a dark shadow on the regional grouping of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) as a result an important member of the regional grouping, India has distanced itself from it after the deadly terror attack on the Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector in 2016. India’s reaction comes in the wake of Nepal’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve issues. SAARC was formed to foster regional cooperation within the South Asian region as the countries in region share much economic, social, cultural and economic commonalities and were in a position to deal with issues that confronted them with mutual cooperation and sharing of resources.
There was only one rotten egg that spoilt every SAARC meeting, at summit level, ministerial level or official level, making it impossible to achieve any meaningful progress over any matter as Pakistan was hell bent on raking up bilateral issues. This was totally against the spirit of the SAARC grouping where issues of mutual interest were supposed to be discussed and help offered to the needy member. However, Pakistan defied this spirit of cooperation as agreed upon by member countries by raising the Kashmir issue repeatedly and also continued to use terror as its policy tool against India. In such a situation it had become impossible for the member countries of the SAARC to transact any meaningful business.
If SAARC had been allowed to carry out its mandated functions it would have been a great help to the people of the South Asian region and India would have been in a position to offer its experience in economic, social, cultural spheres since all the countries in the region shared similar problems on all these fronts and over the years India has been in the forefront in seeking solutions to problems faced by the populace. However, Pakistan has poured cold water on all those possibilities. The proxy war that Pakistan has been using against India for the last several decades has made it nearly impossible for normalcy to return to Indo-Pak relations. As a result Pakistan has been facing isolation internationally.
But then India could not have allowed obstinate Pakistan to totally stop the progress of regional cooperation. It was for this reason that the BIMSTEC initiative came into existence. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has members from the SAARC countries of South Asia and South East Asia abutting the Bay of Bengal region, of course with the exclusion of Pakistan, and has identified 14 critical areas for cooperation among the seven members of the grouping. The areas that have been identified for cooperation will indicate that the member countries have pledged to help each other in overcoming their day today problems with the much sought after free trade agreement being in the works.
Had Pakistan not been so obstinate it could have benefitted much from such regional cooperation and could have found solutions to problems that afflict it socially and economically. However Pakistan does not seem to be interested in ensuring peace in the region and would continue to be in a war-mongering mode. It is understandable that Nepal felt concerned over the worsening situation due to Pakistan’s obstinacy and offered to mediate with the hope that this would lead to revival of SAARC for mutual good. But many countries have made such attempt in the past and still continue to offer their good offices to no avail. But India cannot be bogged down by such obstinate neighbour. India has already started offering help to its South Asian neighbours without any strings attached.