IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 13th Jan
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EDITORIAL HUNT #314 :“SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC ”
SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC
Reclaiming SAARC from the ashes of 2020
Despite the despondency, the rationale for its existence is intact, and India can use it as a stage for its global ambitions
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : International Grouping
In the recent SAARC meeting there was a voice over reclamation of SAARC. Discuss -(GS 2)
- Recent Meet and India’s stand
- The shadows over the meet
- Pandemic caused challenges
- Way Forward
- RECENT MEET UP : The year 2020 marked the sixth year since the leaders of the eight nations that make up SAARC were able to meet.
- INDIA’S STAND : New Delhi made it clear that India’s position on cross-border terrorism from Pakistan that led India to refuse to attend the SAARC summit in 2016 in Islamabad.
THE SHADOWS OVER THE MEETS
- FRAGMENTED APPROACH : Over the past year, India-Pakistan issues have impacted other meetings of SAARC as well, making it easier for member countries to deal with South Asia as a fragmented group rather than a collective.
- CHANGING TRENDS : However, the events of 2020, particularly the novel coronavirus pandemic and China’s aggressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) shone a new spotlight on this mechanism.
- ISSUES WITH PAKISTAN : India’s problems with Pakistan on terrorism, territorial claims and on its role in blocking SAARC initiatives on connectivity and trade are well known.
- SAARC LEADERSHIP : India’s refusal to allow Pakistan to host the SAARC summit is because of those problems to giving Pakistan a ‘veto’ over the entire SAARC process.
- OTHER STAGES : The insistence is particularly puzzling given that New Delhi continued to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings along with their Pakistani counterparts.
- ACCEPTANCE : India did not decline to attend meetings with the Chinese leadership at the SCO, the Russia-India-China trilateral, the G-20 and others.
- While China’s incursions in Ladakh and the Galwan killings constituted the larger concern in the year.
- INDIA NEPAL ENGAGEMENT : No concerns over territorial claims stopped the New Delhi from engaging with Nepal either, despite the decision of Nepals king to change Nepal’s map and Constitution to include Indian territories.
- LOCAL CHALLENGES : Reviving SAARC is crucial to countering the common challenges brought about by the pandemic.
- SOUTH ASIA AND PANDEMIC : Studies have shown that South Asia’s experience of the pandemic has been unique from other regions of the world, and this needs to be studied further in a comprehensive manner in order to counter future pandemics.
- COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH : An approach is also necessary for the distribution and further trials needed for vaccines, as well as developing cold storage chains for the vast market that South Asia represents.
- UNEMPLOYMENT : Apart from the overall GDP slowdown, global job cuts which will lead to an estimated 22% fall in revenue for migrant labour and expatriates from South Asian countries.
- WORLD BANK REPORTS : WB estimated the losses suggest that South Asian countries work as a collective to set standards for labour from the region.
WORLD BANK SUGGESTIONS
- To promoting goods in a more intra-regional arrangements.
- Transnational approach towards tourism.
A TIME FOR REGIONAL INITIATIVES
- LONG TERM IMPACT : 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.
- THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 : It will be seen in broader, global trends: a growing distaste for ‘globalisation’ of trade, travel and migration all of which were seen to have helped the pandemic spread from China.
- OPENING UP TO GLOBAL MARKETS : Regional initiatives will become the “Goldilocks option” (not too hot and not too cold), or the happy medium between globalisation and hyper-nationalism.
REGIONAL TRADE ARRANGEMENTS
It would be important to note therefore, that as the world is divided between regional trade arrangements such as :
- New United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement
- USMCA (North America), the Southern Common Market
- MERCOSUR for its Spanish initials (South America)
- The European Union (Europe)
- The African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA (Africa)
- The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC (Gulf)
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP (South East Asia and Australasia including China)
- COUNTERING CHINA : In dealing with the challenge from China too, both at India’s borders and in its neighbourhood, a unified South Asian platform remains India’s most potent countermeasure.
- BRI INITIATIVE : Pakistan and Nepal are amplifying the threat perception from China, while other SAARC members (minus Bhutan), all of whom are Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners of China will be hard placed to help individually.
- OBSERVER STATUS : Officials recall that every SAARC summit during that decade period saw a discussion on whether China could be upgraded to member status (from observer status).
- INDIAN FIGHT BACK : On each occasion, it was fought back by India and most other countries in the grouping, with the logic that despite sharing boundaries with three South Asian countries, China is not South Asian.
- CHINESE INTERESTS : Despite the rebuff, China has continued to push its way into South Asia, as several statistical indicators for investment, trade, tourism and South Asian student preferences for universities.
- “HEALTH SILK ROAD” INITIATIVE : China has been sending medicines, personal protective equipment kits, and promising vaccines to most SAARC countries as part of its “Health Silk Road” initiative.
INDIA’S STEPS, MORE BILATERAL
- BILATERAL INITIATIVES : Apart from one SAARC meeting convened by New Delhi , these have been bilateral initiatives, not a combined effort for South Asia.
- HISTORY AND LEGACY : Despite the despondency, the rationale for its existence remains intact: while history and political grievances may be perceived differently, geography is reality.
- WAY AHEAD : New Delhi must find its own prism with which to view its South Asian neighbourhood as it should be: a unit that has a common future and as a force-multiplier for India’s ambitions on the global stage.