India Dismisses SAARC Revival Prospects Due to Terrorism Concerns

India Dismisses SAARC Revival Prospects Due to Terrorism Concerns

India has expressed skepticism about the revival of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), attributing its stance to ongoing terrorism support by a member country, implicitly referring to Pakistan. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, speaking ahead of Pakistan’s anticipated government formation, highlighted Islamabad’s persistent use of terrorism, which he views as a significant barrier to the regional grouping’s progress.

During an interactive session at the Ananta Aspen Centre, Jaishankar emphasized that the future of SAARC is closely tied to whether the implicated member country can abandon its reliance on terrorism. He pointed out that the organization’s challenges are not only regional but also reflect on the problematic state of the country in question.

Addressing concerns about India’s perceived dominance in the region, Jaishankar defended India’s actions, citing its generous assistance to neighboring countries during crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the provision of vaccines, food, fuel, and fertilizers in response to global conflicts affecting the region.

Jaishankar criticized the untenable position of having a SAARC member openly engaging in violent actions against other members, questioning the viability of such a regional organization under these circumstances. He argued that excuses made for the offending country’s actions have long obscured the issue, stressing the need for clarity on whether SAARC should proceed despite the presence of terrorism.

The minister’s remarks reflect India’s broader neighborhood policy, which he described as being troubled by one specific country. However, he left the door open for future diplomatic engagement, suggesting that diplomacy always harbors hope for change.

SAARC, consisting of India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, has seen diminished effectiveness since 2016, with no biennial summits held since the Kathmandu meeting in 2014. The 2016 summit in Islamabad was canceled following a terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp, with several members, including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, opting out.

In contrast, Jaishankar noted positive cooperation within the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), despite challenges such as the situation in Myanmar. He highlighted a collective will to cooperate and advance within BIMSTEC, distinguishing it from the issues plaguing SAARC.

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