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SAARC turns 35 but has very little to show for its age, Discuss the reasons and put forward suitable measures to revive this vital regional grouping.

Topic:  India and its neighborhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

3.  SAARC turns 35 but has very little to show for its age, Discuss the reasons and put forward suitable measures to revive this vital regional grouping. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Why this question:

Videoconference of the heads of member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to discuss a common strategy to tackle COVID-19 was held recently.

Key demand of the question:

The question demands to evaluate why in nearly 35 years of its existence, SAARC has not lived up to its potential, what are the underlying reasons responsible and what needs to be done to revive the group.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly narrate a short background of the coming of SAARC into existence; its origin, purpose and modus operandi.

Body:

The idea of SAARC was initiated by General Zia Ur Rehman of Bangladesh.

The first summit of the seven leaders of the region from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka was held in Dhaka in 1985. Afghanistan joined SAARC in 2007.

Secondly discuss the factors that have led to its failure – only less than 5% of inter-regional trade between the SAARC countries, India had shifted focus to other regional groupings that do not include Pakistan and bilateral agreements to ensure cooperation among the neighbors, resulting in SAARC becoming marginal in India’s diplomatic efforts. The asymmetry between India and other member countries in terms of geography, economy, military strength and influence in the global arena make the smaller countries apprehensive, SAARC does not have any arrangement for resolving disputes or mediating conflicts, The infrastructure deficit in the member countries, leading to a lack of connectivity among member states is another weakness of the SAARC etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with what should be done to revive the group, suggest measures to revitalize – comment on role that India should play what should SAARC countries focus on etc.