[Editorial Analysis] Reclaiming SAARC from the ashes of 2020

Mains Paper 2: International relations
Prelims level: SAARC
Mains level: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context:

• The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), appears to be all but dead in the water.
• Reviving the SAARC spirit, potential and tool is necessary to deal with China.

About SAARC:

• India is a founding member of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was set up in 1985 as an organization to build a connected and integrated South Asia with the larger aim of promoting the development and progress of all countries in the region.
• The regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
• India enjoys excellent bilateral relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. As per our “Neighbourhood First’ policy”

SAARC Current Challenges:

1. The shadows over the meets:
• Over the past years, India-Pakistan issues have impacted other meetings of SAARC as well, making it easier for member countries.
• The events of 2020, particularly the novel coronavirus pandemic and China’s aggressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) shone a new spotlight and shadows for SAARC meeting.
• Engaging with Nepal land clamed over Indian Territory, despite Mr. K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision to change Nepal’s map and Constitution to include Indian territories.
2. Pandemic-caused challenges:
• Reviving SAARC is crucial to countering the common challenges brought about by the pandemic.
• The pandemic’s impact on South Asian economies, an estimated 22% fall in revenue for migrant labour and expatriates.
• An expected loss of about 10.77 million jobs and $52.32 billion in GDP in the tourism sector alone from the impact of COVID-19.

Solution:

• Reviving SAARC and collective to set standards for labour from the region,
• To promoting a more intra-regional, transnational approach towards tourism, trade and transportation solve the challenge of pandemic.
• There will be a shift in priorities towards health security, food security, and job security, that will also benefit from an “all-of” South Asia approach.
• Reviving SAARC to deal with China and Pakistan.

China’s Factor in SAARC:

• SAARC members (minus Bhutan), all of whom are Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners of China will be hard placed to help individually.
• Challenge from China too big, both at India’s borders and in its neighbourhood, a unified South Asian platform remains India’s most potent countermeasure.
• Only a matter of time before china, it may hold a meeting of all SAARC countries (minus India and Bhutan). for they are all part of the BRI, and even that they will be invited to join RCEP, which India declined.

Solution:

• India stepped up its health and economic diplomacy in the region, in SAARC meetings. It’s may help India to counter china in SAARC.
• These have been need of bilateral initiatives also, not a combined effort for South Asia. Like Bangladesh.

Objectives of SAARC:

• To improve the quality of life of the peoples of South Asia
• To accelerate economic growth and social progress the South Asian region
• To provide all individuals with the opportunity to live in dignity
• To strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia
• To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields
• To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries
• To cooperate with similar organizations with similar goals

Indian contribution towards SAARC:

• India’s initiative of extending its National Knowledge Network (NKN) to the countries of South Asia has been extended to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
• India launched a South Asian Satellite (SAS) in May 2017 from Sriharikota. and Demonstration terminals of SAS have been installed in Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
• India major contribution in the SAARC framework, India is home to South Asian University (SAU). It was established through an Inter-Governmental Agreement at the 14th SAARC Summit (April 2008).
• India also hosts the Interim Unit of SAARC Disaster Management Center (IU) at the Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management (GIDM), Gandhinagar.
• India created a COVID-19 Emergency Fund with an initial offer of USD 10 million to meet the costs of immediate actions.
• India has developed a ‘SAARC COVID19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX)’ platform for use by all SAARC countries.

Way forward:

• The SAARC seeks to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia, strengthen collective self-reliance, promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in various fields, and cooperate with international and regional organizations.
• All governments in South Asia have responded rapidly to the crisis, but their task is daunting.
• Governments have imposed social-distancing measures, introduced relief packages to secure access to food and provided for delays in payments on taxes, rent, utilities and debt service,
• Implement the SAARC Conventions relating to Trafficking in Women & Children and Promotion of Child Welfare and drug, in South Asia is big achievement of SAARC.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the giant Antarctic iceberg A68a, consider the following statements:
1. The US National Ice Center (USNIC) USNIC is responsible for naming icebergs, which are named according to the Antarctic quadrant in which they are spotted.
2. Iceberg A68a is approaching South Georgia, an island in the southern Pacific Ocean that is part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

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