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Are Saarc’s days numbered?

  • Published at 02:04 am October 5th, 2016
Are Saarc’s days numbered?
Delhi-based leading private think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) has urged Bangladesh to concentrate on Bimstec as Saarc has failed to work effectively. The ORF is working to form a board with all Saarc members, except Pakistan, for enhancing regional trade and cooperation. Focused on strengthening the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi- Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), the think-tank also suggested that the trilateral sub-regional cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Myanmar can be strengthened through massive development work. “Despite many efforts by Saarc, the three-decade old regional forum could not work more effectively due to hindrance from Pakistan,” ORF’s distinguished fellow Pinak R Chakravarty told a group of Bangladeshi journalists visiting New Delhi on an invitation by the Indian External Affairs Ministry. “I’ll urge Bangladesh government to concentrate on Bimstec very carefully. I think East could be more relevant for Bangladesh,” the former Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka said Monday. “Forget Saarc at least for the time being,” he said, adding that they would take Afghanistan and the Maldives from Saarc as observers of Bimstec. “So, you will really have (Bimstec like) Saarc without Pakistan but with Thailand and Myanmar.” Chakravarty said that they were trying to make Bimstec more active for regional cooperation as Pakistan wanted to use Saarc as a “leverage for their purpose.” The remarks came amid the postponement of 19th Saarc Summit, scheduled to be held in November in Islamabad, after most of its member countries including Bangladesh boycotted it in the wake of terrorist attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir. Saarc member countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka; while the Bimstec members are Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. “Connectivity in the region can be a good gesture among the three states [Bangladesh, India, Myanmar]. We have settled maritime boundary [disputes], and Bangladesh, Myanmar and India can work in a trilateral way to explore energy sources in the Bay of Bengal. We can share our resources to explore energy and all the three country will be benefited.” By coining the term “pipeline diplomacy,” Chakravarty said that the three countries could expand pipeline to share petroleum resources. Noting that terrorism is a common problem in the region, the former diplomat said: “I think Bangladesh and India will have to set up a better structure to fight terrorism.” He added: “Every country has an army, but in Pakistan, the army has the country. India has no interest at all to carry out fight with Pakistan but it is Pakistan which insisted it.”