It generally felt that Saarc failed to make headway
mainly due to persistent tension between India and Pakistan
Jan-21 - 27, 2002
Recently, the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) Summit concluded in an identical fashion with
recommendations, commitments and declaration for better relations
among the member countries.
Saarc was launched in 1985 for the economic
development of its member countries but so far has not make much
headway except some cosmetic steps taken for social and economic
relations among the members. The association has failed to prove its
existence as has been done by other regional associations like
European Union, NAFTA and APEC etc., which have paved the way for
social, economic and even political stability for the people of the
As far as achievements of the Saarc were concerned,
it generally felt that Saarc failed to make headway mainly due to
persistent tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed
territory of Kashmir. Some improvement in relations between India and
Pakistan was made when the two countries agreed to allow travel
facility through two-way rail and bus transportation however the two
countries have not yet given the status of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN)
in respect of trade relations.
It is however said that the member countries will
be required to accord MFN status to each other by June this year.
People who travel at least two capitals of the member countries are
allowed 30 per cent discount in air passage besides reduction in duty
in external trade among the member states. However, the trade among
the member countries seems more bilateral instead of regional.
It is unfortunate that Saarc region is the home of
a fifth of the world's population but the size of the population and
volume of resources the region posses is not reflected in barely 3.4
per cent of global trade. One could only wish that the member states
would realize agony of a large majority of the people living below
poverty line in this region despite having resources to change the
fate of their people.
By the time the next summit goes into session in
early 2003 in Pakistan, the people at the helm of affairs in
respective member countries would do something for millions of the
people living in the hope for better days.
Cliches to promote mutual trust and understanding,
peace, stability and amity and to accelerate social-economic
cooperation in the region were however heard in the recently concluded
Member states reaffirmed their commitment to
fostering good neighbourly relations, relieving tensions and building
The participants of the Summit agreed to the vision
of a phased and planned process eventually leading to a South Asian
They also asked Saarc Secretary General to finalize
a regionally agreed investment framework to meet investment needs of
the member states.
Leaders of seven Saarc countries agreed to finalize
the draft by the end of this year.
A declaration at the Saarc summit said heads of the
seven state and governments asked the regional grouping to finalize
the draft of the free trade treaty by the end of this year.
The draft was scheduled to be finalized by the end
of last year but it failed to meet the deadline as adequate
negotiations between the member countries including India, Pakistan,
Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives could not be
The Saarc declaration, which came at the end of a
two-day summit in the Nepalese capital also strongly condemned
The leaders called on all states to prevent and
suppress the functioning of terrorist acts by the collection of funds
for such terrorist acts in states or in organized activities within
its territory directed towards the commission of such acts.
They reiterated the need for an early finalization
of the Saarc Social Charter which should include the important areas
of poverty eradication, population stabilization, the empowerment of
women, youth mobilization, human resource development, promotion of
health and nutrition and protection of children.
Saarc leaders expressed their collective resolve to
treat trafficking in women and children as a criminal offence of a
serious nature. They recognized the need to actively persue and
promote social development through empowerment of women and to achieve
their full participation in decision making at all levels. They
reaffirmed their commitment to uplift the social status of the people
in the region and accord highest priority to promoting social
development through specific and targeted programmes.
In the education sector, the leaders instructed the
concerned ministries of the governments to devise appropriate
strategies for raising the quality of education through exchange of
information among the universities in the region.
The leaders underscored their commitment to general
and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, on a
universal basis, under effective international control; they called
upon all nuclear weapon states to engage constructively through a
transparent and credible process of negotiations at the Conference on
Saarc leaders noted with appreciation the proposal
made by Nepal to institute a Saarc Award to Honor individuals and
organizations in the field of peace, development, poverty alleviation
and regional cooperation.