SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC

IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 13th Jan

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Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #314 :“SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC 

SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC

Suhasini Haider
SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC

      HEADLINES:

Reclaiming SAARC from the ashes of 2020

      CENTRAL THEME:

Despite the despondency, the rationale for its existence is intact, and India can use it as a stage for its global ambitions

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : International Grouping

      MAINS QUESTION:

In the recent SAARC meeting there was a voice over reclamation of SAARC. Discuss -(GS 2)

      LEARNING: 

  • Recent Meet and India’s stand
  • The shadows over the meet
  • Pandemic caused challenges
  • Way Forward

      INTRODUCTION: 

Thirty-six years after it first began, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), appears to be all but dead in the water.

  • RECENT MEET UP : The year 2020 marked the sixth year since the leaders of the eight nations that make up SAARC were able to meet.
  • INDIA’S STAND : New Delhi made it clear that India’s position on cross-border terrorism from Pakistan that led India to refuse to attend the SAARC summit in 2016 in Islamabad.

      BODY: 

THE SHADOWS OVER THE MEETS

  • FRAGMENTED APPROACH : Over the past year, India-Pakistan issues have impacted other meetings of SAARC as well, making it easier for member countries to deal with South Asia as a fragmented group rather than a collective.

The whole concept now is changed to working with each country in separate silos or in smaller configurations

  • CHANGING TRENDS : However, the events of 2020, particularly the novel coronavirus pandemic and China’s aggressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) shone a new spotlight on this mechanism.
  • ISSUES WITH PAKISTAN : India’s problems with Pakistan on terrorism, territorial claims and on its role in blocking SAARC initiatives on connectivity and trade are well known.
  • SAARC LEADERSHIP : India’s refusal to allow Pakistan to host the SAARC summit is because of those problems to giving Pakistan a ‘veto’ over the entire SAARC process.
  • OTHER STAGES : The insistence is particularly puzzling given that New Delhi continued to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings along with their Pakistani counterparts.
  • ACCEPTANCE : India did not decline to attend meetings with the Chinese leadership at the SCO, the Russia-India-China trilateral, the G-20 and others.
  • While China’s incursions in Ladakh and the Galwan killings constituted the larger concern in the year.
  • INDIA NEPAL ENGAGEMENT : No concerns over territorial claims stopped the New Delhi from engaging with Nepal either, despite the  decision of Nepals king to change Nepal’s map and Constitution to include Indian territories.

PANDEMIC-CAUSED CHALLENGES

  • LOCAL CHALLENGES : Reviving SAARC is crucial to countering the common challenges brought about by the pandemic.
  • SOUTH ASIA AND PANDEMIC : Studies have shown that South Asia’s experience of the pandemic has been unique from other regions of the world, and this needs to be studied further in a comprehensive manner in order to counter future pandemics.
  • COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH : An approach is also necessary for the distribution and further trials needed for vaccines, as well as developing cold storage chains for the vast market that South Asia represents.

The pandemic’s impact on South Asian economies is another area that calls for coordination
 

EXAMPLE
There is an expected loss of about 10.77 million jobs and US$52.32 billion in GDP in the tourism sector alone from the impact of COVID-19.

  • WORLD BANK REPORTS : WB estimated the losses suggest that South Asian countries work as a collective to set standards for labour from the region.

WORLD BANK SUGGESTIONS

  • To promoting goods in a more intra-regional arrangements.
  • Transnational approach towards tourism.

EXAMPLE
East Africa Single Joint Visa’ system, or similar joint tourism initiatives like in the Mekong region or the Caribbean islands. 

A TIME FOR REGIONAL INITIATIVES

  • LONG TERM IMPACT : There will be a shift in priorities towards health security, food security, and job security, that will also benefit from an “all-of” South Asia approach.
  • THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 : It will be seen in broader, global trends: a growing distaste for ‘globalisation’ of trade, travel and migration all of which were seen to have helped the pandemic spread from China.

On the other hand we also see growing preference for nativism, self-dependence and localising supply chains

  • OPENING UP TO GLOBAL MARKETS : Regional initiatives will become the “Goldilocks option” (not too hot and not too cold), or the happy medium between globalisation and hyper-nationalism.

REGIONAL TRADE ARRANGEMENTS

It would be important to note therefore, that as the world is divided between regional trade arrangements such as :

  • New United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement
  • USMCA (North America), the Southern Common Market
  • MERCOSUR for its Spanish initials (South America)
  • The European Union (Europe)
  • The African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA (Africa)
  • The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC (Gulf)
  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP (South East Asia and Australasia including China)

India’s only regional trading agreement at present is the South Asian Free Trade Area, or SAFTA (with SAARC countries).

CHINA’S QUEST

  • COUNTERING CHINA : In dealing with the challenge from China too, both at India’s borders and in its neighbourhood, a unified South Asian platform remains India’s most potent countermeasure.
  • BRI INITIATIVE : Pakistan and Nepal are amplifying the threat perception from China, while other SAARC members (minus Bhutan), all of whom are Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners of China will be hard placed to help individually.

Significantly, from 2005-14, China actually wanted to join SAARC

  • OBSERVER STATUS : Officials recall that every SAARC summit during that decade period saw a discussion on whether China could be upgraded to member status (from observer status).
  • INDIAN FIGHT BACK : On each occasion, it was fought back by India and most other countries in the grouping, with the logic that despite sharing boundaries with three South Asian countries, China is not South Asian.
  • CHINESE INTERESTS : Despite the rebuff, China has continued to push its way into South Asia, as several statistical indicators for investment, trade, tourism and South Asian student preferences for universities.
  • “HEALTH SILK ROAD” INITIATIVE : China has been sending medicines, personal protective equipment kits, and promising vaccines to most SAARC countries as part of its “Health Silk Road” initiative.

China has held three separate meetings with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, on Sinovac vaccine availability.

      IASbhai Windup: 

INDIA’S STEPS, MORE BILATERAL

  • BILATERAL INITIATIVES : Apart from one SAARC meeting convened by New Delhi , these have been bilateral initiatives, not a combined effort for South Asia.

These are some of the reasons that led all SAARC leaders urgently call for the revival of SAARC during their charter day messages 

  • HISTORY AND LEGACY : Despite the despondency, the rationale for its existence remains intact: while history and political grievances may be perceived differently, geography is reality.
  • WAY AHEAD : New Delhi must find its own prism with which to view its South Asian neighbourhood as it should be: a unit that has a common future and as a force-multiplier for India’s ambitions on the global stage.
       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | SAARC Restoration in 2021 | UPSC 

TRENDING NOW : Important The Hindu Editorials 

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