If SAARC fails, there’s BIMSTEC: India warns Pakistan
NEW DELHI: India sent out a clear message to Pakistan+ on Monday, 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. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also presented a snapshot of what a ‘SAARC without Pakistan’ could achieve.
Without naming Pakistan+ , Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar took a shot at Islamabad in an address to a think tank in
“Problem with SAARC is that some basic sort of 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 motor ways, 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 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 cancelled in the heighted tensions following the terrorist attack on a military camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri.
Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka too had pulled out of the Islamabad summit, citing an unfavourable atmosphere due to an escalation of terrorist activities.
SAARC Summits can be held only in the presence of all members. Summits will stand cancelled if even one of the members pull out, making the pull-out by a number of countries a significant diplomatic isolation of Islamabad.
The continuing tensions between India and Pakistan have given rise to doubts over whether the consensus needed for a SAARC Summit will be reached in the near future. This in turn has led to the idea of a regional grouping without Pakistan being mentioned with increasing frequency in the discourses of South Asian countries.