Repeated declarations by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the need to reinvigorate ties with neighbouring states have created a renewed interest in the possibilities of multilateral co-operation under the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation.
Since its inception in 1985, the efficacy of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) as a viable institutional mechanism that can facilitate the collective development and security of the region has come under increasing scrutiny. As the heads of the eight South Asian countries meet at the eighteenth SAARC Summit on 26-27 November in Kathmandu, one may be forgiven for questioning whether any concrete results are likely to emerge, or if the self-defeating cycle of summits that lead to declarations to form expert groups that create reports that ultimately gather dust in libraries and bureaucratic shelves is bound to continue. Despite the failures of the past, the repeated declarations by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the need to reinvigorate ties with neighbouring states have created a renewed interest in the possibilities of multilateral co-operation under SAARC.
- Though often criticised for its perceived underperformance, breakthroughs at SAARC have been achieved on the sidelines of its Summits. These have come about despite the constraints placed on it by Article X of its Charter and the Indo-Pakistan rivalry.
- SAARC remains the only channel for achieving South Asia’s collective long-term visions and addressing the region’s immediate needs.
- Statements from the Indian and Bangladeshi Governments that energy and connectivity Agreements will be signed at this Summit have raised hopes for a new level of regional co-operation under SAARC, but any agreements will need to be backed by tangible progress to be of any real value.
- The Islamic State and the ebola virus are two immediate challenges for South Asia, but the measures that are currently in place to deal with them on a regional basis are inadequate or non-existent. SAARC is a potential mechanism to address them.