Ever since Saarc was founded in 1985, it has been shadowed by the rocky relationships between two of its largest members – India and Pakistan. Other members have also affected scheduled Saarc summits, citing domestic reasons or a rocky relationship with either Pakistan or India. Probably, this is the first time that four members – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan – have decided to boycott the Saarc summit, to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan between 9-10 November 2016. Despite existing as a collaborative platform for Southasian nations for 32 years and after 18 Saarc summits, the regional organisation has achieved little beyond empty rhetoric. Our archival articles trace its history and complexities that has hindered true regional cooperation under its aegis.
This is not the first time a Saarc summit has become the ‘collateral damage’ in the on-going and relentless rivalry between India and Pakistan. Dip into our archives to understand how petty politics have impacted Saarc and its mandate to promote regional cooperation over the decades.
From our Archives:
Anirudha Gupta on Saarc’s failure to resolve the issue of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal (July 1994);
S.D. Muni on possibilities of sub-regional cooperation within Saarc (May 1997);
Pratyoush Onta on the need to facilitate serious scholarship on realising the potential of the regional association (March 1998);
Himal Southasian’s commentary on the ninth Saarc summit (October 1998); After India postponed the eleventh summit in 1999,
Praful Bidwai criticised the country for subjugating the priorities of the regional forum to fuel its bilateral rivalry (November 1999);
Kanti Bajpai asks if there is a collective regional life beyond the narrow confines of Saarc (January 2000);
Kanak Mani Dixit on the need for more people-to-people interaction to truly materialise the ambitions of Saarc (November 2005);
Imtiaz Ahmed laying out seven thorny issues between India and Bangladesh that Saarc could step in to mediate (March 2007);
Sukumar Murlidharan’s scepticism on the outcomes of 14th Saarc summit (May 2007);
Saman Kelegama looks at how Saarc initiatives have failed to make any significant impact to improve people’s lives (August 2008); SAARC’s former general secretary;
Nihal Rodrigo on the need for Saarc to expand the cooperation with China, East Asia and the West (August 2008);
Neera Chandhoke underlines the need for Saarc to discuss the human-rights situation in each of member states’ territories and to lay out a common charter of human rights for Southasia (August 2008);
Mahendra P Lama opines that besides the inter-governmental process, Saarc has opened many avenues for people-to-people interactions (August 2008);
Shamshad Ahmad on the need for Saarc to move from declaration to implementation (August 2008);
Puja Sen and Shubhanga Pandey on the media’s obsession with the India-Pakistan relationship during the SAARC Summit (November 2014);
Pratap Bhanu Mehta opines that Southasian integration is not possible without changing the understanding of ‘sovereignty’ (November 2015);
and on a funny side, a mock resolution of the eighteenth Southasian regional summit by Puja Sen and Shubhanga Pandey (27 NOVEMBER 2014).