There are expectations that the annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit that is going to open from today in the Maldives may result in improvement in regional cooperation for the stability and peace process in Afghanistan and may also play some role in rapprochement in Pak-Indian relations. SAARC is an organization of South Asian nations.
It was founded in December 1985 and is dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan joined the organization in 2005. After the addition of Afghanistan there are now eight members of the organization. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually while meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually.
Its headquarter is in Kathmandu, Nepal. The 16 stated areas of cooperation are agriculture and rural, biotechnology, culture, energy, environment, economy and trade, finance, funding mechanism, human resource development, poverty alleviation, people to people contact, security aspects, social development, science and technology, communications and tourism.
Afghan President Karzai is also going to attend the summit. There are hopes that Afghan President can make the organization consider the issue of peace process in Afghanistan seriously. Previously the summits of this regional body have been overshadowed by the Indian-Pakistan dynamic. Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said, "We would like the focus to remain essentially on the common business of SAARC... and hope that the focus will not be diverted to one single event."
Definitely, SAARC must always strive for larger regional cooperation efforts apart from Indian-Pakistan dynamics. No doubt India and Pakistan are two important countries in the region with nuclear power, but there are many regional issues that should be considered by SAARC if it is really to become an effective and powerful regional organization; furthermore, by doing so it can play important role in international politics as well.
However, it must not be forgotten as well that the prospects of peaceful relations between India and Pakistan are going to result in better regional cooperation for peace process in Afghanistan.
The incidents that happened in Afghanistan, which resulted in the blame game and the strategic agreement signed between Afghanistan and India played a dominant role in distancing Afghanistan from Pakistan and also Pakistan from US. So, this summit can play a role by bringing at least Afghanistan, India and Pakistan closer to each other and provide them an opportunity to build trust and form long lasting cooperation, which is also a crying need of time.