The collective journey of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), established with the commitment by the seven countries to present themselves in one forum on common international agenda by alleviating the widespread poverty in South Asian region through regional cooperation and understanding, has completed 22 years amid both hopes and pessimism.
However, questions are raised if this two-decade long journey of SAARC has fulfilled the aspirations of the people of the region, and that no reply for it has been found yet.
Each year commitments are made in dozens of new areas and proposals, but their implementation is not moved ahead concretely and crisis of confidence between the member states is seen as the obstruction to SAARC so far.
This region has common problems such as poverty, illiteracy and backwardness and the aspirations of the people are centered on resolving these problems and the organization is moving ahead as per the times in the context that it has been backward in technology and in economic point of view.
The organization established on December 8, 1985 has completed its 14 summit conferences and in a short time it will be held in the Maldives capital Male, for which the date has been fixed to hold the 15 th summit.
Showing concern as to how far works could be done as per the objectives of the SAARC as we near the 15 th summit and what subjects should get priority in the coming decades on that basis will help it move ahead actively.
Indeed, the establishment of SAARC was to make collective efforts for the resolution of the common problems of the region through cooperation and understanding and to identify in the world arena as a peaceful, regional and non-political common organisation.
Although there is a decades long conflict between India and Pakistan because of Jammu and Kashmir as a cause of disagreement for South Asia, to see goodwill among all the member states during the summit is somewhat positive.
With the start of the 1980s and development of regional organizations worldwide and in line with the development of regional unity in Asian region, the then Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahaman had put forth the SAARC concept and it was founded with the participation of the seven nations of South Asia.
India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal are the SAARC founding members. It has now eight members with the formal entry of Afghanistan from the 14 th summit.
The organization criticized of being a forum of the poor and not being effective has shown some activity after two decades and hopes are raised in the South Asian people.
Asian economic powers China and Japan and countries like USA to remain as observer and to show concern on SAARC activity and development has added some hopes.
There have been some hopes in development of the region as some concrete programmes have been put forward for regional development in the 14 th summit instead of the abstract commitments enmeshed in the earlier wordy documents.
A free commission has been proposed on poverty alleviation in the regional level in the 14 summit declaration as per the effort to alleviate poverty in the region. Likewise, another commitment is to build transport by making air or land route at least for reaching another capital from one member state of the SAARC.
Likewise, other commitment is to work jointly by studying the feasibility of the energy including solar, bio, hydro to work with solidarity for the use of energy available here, as petroleum availability is low in the South Asian region.
Other commitments including establishment of the South Asian common university in the South Asian region, common body to control criminal activities, and identification in the world as a collective identity of the region are the most effective and meaningful.
Although it was given birth by the leaders of this region with a sole spirit of making SAARC a powerful forum for making the fortune of the south Asian people, it has not been moved ahead accordingly, but has been always thinking on the regional problems.
There is a need for heading towards addressing the problems by the SAARC in view of the present day reality that South Asia has been taken as the origin of deprivation, poverty and backwardness.
Source: The Rising Napel