Hit hard by India’s decision to pull out of the SAARC summit slated to be held in November, Pakistan has suddenly raised a demand for inclusion of China and Iran in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, fully well knowing that these two countries are not from South Asia. The SAARC is the South Asian countries association and currently includes India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. Has Pakistan forgotten history that a proposal had been mooted by Bangladesh in 1970 for creation of an exclusive block of South Asian countries? The idea was to look for development of human resources, agriculture and science and technology to improve health and hygiene conditions in the member countries. Almost 11 years later, the proposal was accepted in 1981 and in August 1983, SAARC was formed with seven countries,while Afghanistan joined this block in year 2005.
India’s move was tactical and it made it clear to members that it was pulling out because Pakistan has been unable to guarantee foolproof security for years. The message was clear that Pakistan has not been able to host even a single international event of this stature. It is not only India that has pulled out of SAARC but Bangladesh and Afghanistan share similar views and have come out strongly against Pakistan. Ditto for Bhutan. For Pakistan, SAARC could not have come at such a wrong time — November, months after Uri attack. The trouble in Kashmir Valley and the Uri attack happened at a time when the hosts of SAARC should have exhibited impeccable international behaviour befitting of countries yearning for regional cooperation.
Pakistan was nursing false hopes that SAARC member countries would not take the extreme step of pulling out of the meeting to be held in Pakistan itself. The onus now lies on Pakistan if there is a question mark over SAARC’s survival in future. Member countries are openly questioning why Pakistan should be part of SAARC.
Not finding any escape route, Pakistan now dumped by SAARC is clamouring for participation of China and Iran. As Central Asian countries can’t be included in SAARC, Pakistan’s move seems flawed and ill-timed. After all, what has been Pakistan’s contribution to SAARC except terrorism? Little doubt that the overwhelming view amongst SAARC countries is to dump Pakistan and continue with SAARC sans Pakistan.
Indeed, India and other SAARC nations’ no-show does not spell the end of the SAARC movement but it does rob Pakistan of its day in the sun.