Discuss the failures of SAARC towards nurturing the cooperation in South Asia. Can BIMSTEC be seen as a viable alternative to SAARC? Examine.
South Asian Association for regional cooperation (SAARC) headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal aims for integration of south Asian nations for undertaking collective efforts to achieve common objective of regional stability and prosperity.
SAARC has failed in achieving its objectives because:
- India-Pakistan rivalry has become a bottleneck in achieving effective coordination. Last SAARC summit got cancelled because of the Indo-Pak tensions.
- Even though the region accounts for 21% of world population, its share in global GDP is just around 3%. Being one of the poverty ridden areas of the world, there is limited avenues to achieve synergy.
- Almost every member is facing numerous internal crisis like Tamils issue in Srilanka, Constitutional crisis in Nepal, religious fundamentalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Terrorism and instability in Afghanistan has made these nations inward looking with not much enthusiasm to achieve collaboration in the sub continent.
- Asymmetry in the region due to sheer size of Indian economy and stature in international arena requires India to play an over active role but this over activeness is perceived as big brother attitude by other members creating mistrust.
- Long pending issues between members like fishermen issue between India and Srilanka, Teesta water sharing between India and Bangladesh, lack of direct access to Afghanistan to other members except Pakistan have restricted in arriving at common ground for regional integration and also resulted in increased mistrust among the members.
- Increasing presence of china in the region and reservations of India with China is creating roadblocks.
Potential of Bay of Bengal Initiative for multisectoral, technical and economic cooperation (BIMSTEC) as an alternative:
- Absence of Pakistan in the region is as per India’s effort of sidelining Pakistan in international platforms.
- BIMSTEC will also be complimentary for various other Initiatives of India like forming a bridge between ASEAN and India, new found concept of Indo-pacific, neighborhood first policy.
- Reduced conflict between the members will aid in achieving a common ground for the regional prosperity and Stability.
But even BIMSTEC has its own share of issues like Rohingya crisis between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Refugee crisis between Bhutan and Nepal, increasing presence of China in the Indian Ocean region.
The scope and objectives of BIMSTEC and SAARC are not one and the same. Therefore BIMSTEC can be seen as complimentary to SAARC in regional integration rather than an alternative.