India and the SAARC nations, the roadmap ahead?
South Asian Association and Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the economic and geopolitical unit presently consist of eight member countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan. Since its establishment in 1985 it has mixed bag of success and failure to its kitty. The development potential of this group has been hindered by various factors like
- India Pakistan bilateral issue
- India's bilateral issue with other countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh also takes a toll on the development of SAARC as the powerful regional group.
- Trust deficit between India and its neighboring countries due to India's big brother image
- Cross border Terrorism
- Political instability in the Pakistan ,Afghanistan and Maldives
- Low Human development Index and resource problems in the region
Now India has occupied the 70% of the SAARC counties region geographically and economically, therefore it is natural that India has to take the lead to sort out the above mentioned issues and devise a plan to revive this group to achieve its full potential. India should provide the unilateral concession and other assistance to bridge the trust deficit among the SAARC nations. Moreover, this forum should not discuss the bilateral issues as in past this India Pakistan bilateral task always dominated the overall agenda of the SAARC.
This region has been grappling with problems of population, poverty, illiteracy, climate change, health, terrorism, flood and droughts. Now SAARC as a platform can be used to device a joint strategy to arrive at the solution of these problems.
Economic development of the region needs be given the top most priority in the planning.SAARC preferential trade agreement (SAPTA) needs to be revived to bring the economic prosperity in this region. India needs to give the trade concessions to member countries to make the SAPTA achieve its potential. This regional group can be turn in to a manufacturing hub and can develop the competitive products using its huge population as a resource by imparting required skills to them. This will reduce the incidence the poverty in the region and will have the cascading effect on the other aspect of the development.
Terrorism is a big threat to the security of the SAARC countries. It diverts the resources which otherwise could have been used for other development activity. Joint cooperation among these countries is required to fight against terror outfits. Each country needs to ensure that they will not allow their soil to become the breeding ground for terrorism.
Further, India should take initiative and use the SAARC platform to discuss the issue of political instability in Afghanistan .Stable political regime in Afghanistan can contribute to the overall success of this forum as Afghanistan has great mineral and energy resources.
Energy is like a blood for the development of the economy. In this context, the region has great potential to develop the renewable energy like solar, wind, tidal etc. Therefore the SAARC countries need to cooperate to develop the technology which can provide affordable electricity to its people and industries. In addition to this hydro power potential is enormous in the Himalayan belt Rivers, which can be harnessed with the joint cooperation of these countries. SAARC forum can be used to resolve the water related issues among the member countries .This will contribute to the overall development of the region as water resources are critical to the development.
Monsoonal regime in the whole region provides a strong reason for SAARC countries to develop the technology for monsoon forecasting. Collaborative research can be carried out to develop the drought resistant crops and other varieties of crops resistant to climate change. Research emphasis should be given to develop the technology which can help to increase the agriculture production and productivity. This will solve the problem of food security among the SAARC nations.
Disaster management is another area where SAARC nation can cooperate and develop a specific fund to strengthen the disaster management system.
Apart from this, SAARC countries should speak in one voice to make their voice heard at the international forum regarding climate change. It will help these countries to have the better deal in terms of importing green technologies from the developed nations and facing any legally binding sanctions to reduce the carbon footprint. In addition to this SAARC countries needs to dedicate specific fund to prepare them for the climate change battle.
Development of SAARC as a strong regional group will bring the prosperity in the region. It will reduce the incidence of poverty and increase the level of human development in the member countries. It is rightly said that 21st century belongs to Asia and for Asia to do well SAARC group has to reach its potential.