South Asia’s Rise

  • Fears loom at Kathmandu of another unproductive Saarc summit.
  • Three showpiece agreements concerning road, rail and power connectivity had been slated to be signed during this summit, but Islamabad has raised objections on the ground of lack of sufficient `internal processes' around the pacts.
  • It's quite possible this summit will turn out a talking shop, just like past summits.
  • It's not just Pakistan that plays a spoiler at Saarc summits, India too hasn't taken this regional grouping seriously enough in the past.
  • Against this backdrop it's just as well that Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to outline a big picture of regional prosperity and security that's possible if Saarc member nations were to develop habits of co-operation ­ as well as put on the plate what India has to offer in this regard ­ while eschewing critical references to Pakistan.
  • At a time when trade blocs and free trade areas are being negotiated across the globe, Modi rightly pointed out that less than 5% of the region's global trade took place between Saarc member nations.
  • Modi cited a new awakening across South Asia and signalled India's willingness to walk in this direction by supporting cross-regional infrastructure, energy co-operation, easier business visas including a Saarc business traveller card,
  • He also the establishment of a Saarc reference laboratory for TB and HIV .
  • With an increasing number of countries buying into the idea that economic integration is the key to prosperity in the current geopolitical climate, Pakistan risks being isolated if it continues to spike proposals for closer co-operation.
  • In that case, however, nothing prevents New Delhi from pursuing such co-operation with eastern neighbours such as Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh ­ as well as Sri Lanka to the south ­ an area where it too has been tardy .