DMPQ-Explain why it is important to revive the SAARC in the context of recent events.

The year 2020 marked the sixth year since the leaders of the eight nations that make up the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) were able to meet. India’s problems with Pakistan on terrorism, territorial claims, and its role in blocking SAARC initiatives on connectivity and trade are the main reasons that even after thirty-six years of its formation, SAARC appears to be a defunct body.

Need For Reviving SAARC

Regional Disconnect

Over the past year, India-Pakistan issues have impacted other meetings of SAARC. This makes it easier for member countries and international agencies, to deal with South Asia as a fragmented group rather than a collective one.

Impact of Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19, is a growing distaste for ‘globalisation’ and growing preference for nativism, self-dependence and localising supply chains.  While it will be impossible for countries to entirely cut themselves off from the global market, regional initiatives will become the golden mean between globalisation and hyper-nationalism. €

Moreover, reviving SAARC is crucial to countering the common challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Dealing With China

It is clear that tensions with Pakistan and Nepal amplify the threat perception from China, while other SAARC members (minus Bhutan), all of whom are Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners of China will be hard placed to help individually.  Also, in the current pandemic, China is sending medicines, personal protective equipment kits, and promising vaccines to most SAARC countries as part of its “Health Silk Road” initiative.

South Asian countries need to work as a collective to set common standards and promote a more intra-regional, transnational approach towards health security, food security, and job security.

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