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Book on SAARC

New Life Within SAARC

Published Year: 2005

Published by: Institute of Foreign Affairs(IFA) & Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Editors: Dev Raj Dahal & Nischal N. Pandey

Price: Not mentioned

Pages: 190

The book highlights the importance of SAARC in South Asian Region

Despite their common perception on many issues including trade and other matters which are beneficial to them, they are yet to benefit materialize them. Although they have recently endorsed the South Asia Free Trade Agreement, the countries in the region still have many differences on how to implement them.

Among the member state, India is the biggest sharing the borders with all six countries of the region. This is the reason India ’s role is very important to materialize the regional cooperation in real sense. From political to economic level, India and its neighbors have many disputes.

Just a few days after the execution of SAFTA agreement, India has put so many conditionality on transit treat with Nepal and the treaty is formally in the position of collapse. India ’s trade relations with Bangladesh and Pakistan are also not smooth as they have many disputes.

In such a situation, any academic exercise taken to highlights the problems within the SAARC region is commendable. Edited by Dev Raj Dahal and Nishchal N. Pandey, the new life within SAARC Region has made efforts to highlights the problems in the region.

“South Asian Countries share a common perception on many issues and a mutually beneficial aspiration to deal with various externalities. The policy areas are sufficiently dense and the common regional interest is widening the scope of cooperation. This lends high hope for the future of SAARC,” writes Dahal and Pandey in their preface. “Moving Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will open the possibility for a free trade area by 2016. FTA is a useful tool for market liberalization and structural reforms of the economy to complement multilateral efforts consistent with WTO under the WTO regime.”

In the last two decades, all South Asian countries have made many efforts to minimize their differences and improve the relations between them but their continue to exist the trusts and distrusts among them. Although all South Asian countries share the border with India , all the South Asian Countries have one or other kinds of problems. The relations between India and Pakistan dominate the regional environment. Since last few years, the Nepal and Bangladesh are also uncomfortable with India . India ’s security perception vis-à-vis its neighbors are creating more trouble.

“Many reasons exist for the uneven progress of SAARC: most have to do with intra-regional political tensions, and most involve India . The chronic tension, occasional conflict, and perennial absence of trust between India and Pakistan; the periodic hiccups in relations between India and her other neighbors- Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh; and so on,” writes K.V. Rajan in his paper Renewing SAARC. India as the largest country with boundaries with all the other member states without doubt bears a disproportionate responsibility for the success or failure of SAARC as compared with the others: It is condemned to be both the necessary engine as well as the likely obstacle in the fulfillment of SAARC’s potential.”

Written by several other writes from the region including Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani, Dr. Mohan Lohani, Nishchal N Pandey from Nepal and former foreign secretary of Pakistan Shamsad Ahmad, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh CM Safi Sami and Tshering Phuntsho of Bhutan and other experts from the region presented their points of view.

“The more things change, the more they remain same. This French aphorism perhaps best describes the institutional character of SAARC which since its establishment in 1985 has been seeking change in our region in terms of poverty eradication and sustainable development, but the change is nowhere in sight,” writes Ahamad.

Despite all progress and rhetoric of regional trade, the countries of the region have a long way to go before materializing the regional cooperation like other parts of the region. As long as there is growing distrust and mistrust between them, there is no possibility for regional cooperation to thrive.

Reviewed by Keshab Poudel (Spotlight 20-26 January 2006)

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