On this day, Pakistan is trying to destroy the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a powerful platform to enhance mutual cooperation and friendship between South Asian countries. Its attitude has been very negative, to say the least. Due to this, the platform of SAARC has been rendered paralyzed. Pakistan has recently raised the demand that the representatives of the Taliban government, which came to power in Afghanistan, should also be included in the meeting of foreign ministers of SAARC countries, which is to be held during the 76th annual conference of the United Nations in New York. The rest of the SAARC countries were not ready on this matter and they cancelled this meeting itself. They believed that accepting Pakistan’s demand meant that they were directly or indirectly supporting a government that was blatantly reactionary, pro-terrorism, and anti-women. There is no place for human rights in the minds of the Taliban. That is why the absurd demand of Pakistan cannot be accepted at all.
Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken a strong initiative to revive this weakening organization by inviting the leaders of SAARC nations to his swearing-in ceremony in the year 2014. But Pakistan has been continuously creating obstacles in the fulfillment of this objective. It continued to spread its wretchedness as much as possible in this organization. The SAARC is an economic and political organization of South Asian countries. It was established on 8th December 1985 by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan together. At the 14th summit of SAARC in April 2007, Afghanistan was made its eighth new member. If one looks at the pages of history related to SAARC, it will be known that in the decade of 1970s, the then President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Ziaur Rahman had proposed the creation of a trade bloc of South Asian countries. The idea of regional cooperation among SAARC members was placed in May 1980. In April 1981, the foreign secretaries of the seven nations met for the first time in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was then that SAARC came into existence.
It is a pity that the whole world has only now started to understand the importance of mutual economic cooperation very well, but Pakistan does not allow SAARC to grow. Due to this, the SAARC countries could not even form an opinion on matters of substance like terrorism and mutual trade. Pakistan serves as a fertiliser that aids and nurtures the fanatics who seem to have made it their mission to spread terror in India. Pakistan is solely responsible for the horrific terrorist attack carried out in Mumbai. This is known to the whole world. Osama bin Laden hails from Pakistan. Let’s just say that Pakistan has become a terrorism factory. No country is keen on playing in Pakistan or travelling to Pakistan for tours and even if they do, they return due to terrorism threats. Recently, the New Zealand cricket team refused to play in Pakistan after touring. The England cricket team refused to even go there. In Pakistan, there was also a potentially deadly attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Even after this, Pakistan remains a part of SAARC.
India has been serious about strengthening SAARC from the beginning. It is of the opinion that SAARC should be active again. Its member countries should cooperate with India in its mission. India had promised all possible cooperation to SAARC countries in fighting the global pandemic, that is, Covid-19. It is said that neighbours in tight spots and crises must stand by each other. In the event of such a crisis, the old grievances should also be forgotten. India stood with SAARC countries in combating the coronavirus, thereby putting forward a strong statement of brotherhood. The way India fought to defeat Coronavirus was seen and highly appreciated by the whole world including SAARC countries. The people of Pakistan saw it, but its leaders avoided praising Modi Ji or even India. Due to the bad mentality of Pakistan, the movement of SAARC is not able to take a step forward.
See, now SAARC countries have to seriously consider removing Pakistan from their platform. They have to realise how only one member country on the forum has been hurting all the other fellow countries of the forum. India is not the only enemy of Pakistan. They are not on good terms with Bangladesh as well. It is worth noting that Bangladesh was once a part of it, that is, Bangladesh was once East Pakistan. Pakistan’s constant effort is to harm Bangladesh in all possible ways. This is despite the fact that Bangladesh is also an Islamic country.
Bangladesh hanged Qasim Ali, the leader of the 1971 genocide and Jamaat-e-Islami, a few years back. Pakistan expressed strong objection to this. Bangladesh also made it abundantly clear that it will never tolerate any interference from Pakistan in its internal issues. Pakistan and Bangladesh which were once a country now remain far away from each other. Pakistan is again at fault here. Even if SAARC countries show Pakistan the way out, it will only strengthen their platform. They will be able to cooperate openly in economic and other areas where help is needed. They will be able to fight against terrorism. SAARC countries need to realise that they will not be able to achieve anything with Pakistan on their platform. Without Pakistan, SAARC countries will also be able to accelerate their lump-sum economic cooperation. An example of the pathetic condition of economic cooperation in SAARC countries is presented. In the year 2007, India’s Tata Group had made an investment plan of three billion dollars in Bangladesh. The Tata Conglomerate wanted to invest in different sectors here. But it faced a lot of strong opposition. It was opposed saying that it would prove to be the East India Company for the country. This mentality is not right. During the Corona epidemic, all the countries, especially the neighbors, will have to work together. This has presented the member countries a unique opportunity to follow the path of development by giving impetus to the movement of SAARC.
(The author is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)