In order to hide its own actions to impede the success of SAARC including refusal to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad, India sent out a message to Pakistan the other day, warning it that South Asian nations would find other ways to cooperate on regional initiatives if it continues to block initiatives under the SAARC banner. Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also presented a snapshot of what a ‘SAARC without Pakistan’ could achieve.
Without admitting that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad which was aimed at pressurising Pakistan, S Jaishankar instead took a shot at Islamabad in an address to a think tank in New Delhi. “Problem with SAARC is that some basic sort osf standards of regional cooperation have to apply. If you say that I will be regional member but I will not allow regional trade, I will not allow regional connectivity, will not allow regional motorways, I will not allow regional railways, then what is it about,” he said, referring to a connectivity project that Pakistan had blocked at the last SAARC Summit in Kathmandu.
“You cannot be a member of a region and block every possible regional initiative and still say I am a good member. That sort of approach has to change,” Jaishankar added.
He further indicated that if South Asian countries found their initiatives blocked under the SAARC banner, they would look to other regional groupings like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ( BIMSTEC) to meet these needs.
He also buttressed speculations over a ‘SAARC without Pakistan’ by saying India is prepared for cooperation on regional connectivity projects. The stinger came when he expressed support for connectivity projects backed by China and referred to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) project as an example.
The future of SAARC has been increasingly questioned after the cancellation of the summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad. The summit had been due to stubbornness of India and its influence on countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan to also boycott the summit.