13 October 2016
India and four other countries have pulled out of the 19th South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Islamabad in November. India’s decision was taken in the wake of the Uri attack on 18 September 2016. Similar decisions by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka have led to the cancellation of the summit and several commentators have opined that ‘SAARC is dead’.
SAARC’s inability to hold summits is not new. Roughly half of the scheduled SAARC summits have either been cancelled or postponed since the grouping was established in 1985. The main reason for this is ongoing conflict between nuclear powers India and Pakistan. But SAARC is resilient and eventually diplomacy will prevail and the summits will resume as in the past, if intermittently.
Boycotting the summit will only further weaken the institution. Instead members should work together to strengthen the SAARC mechanisms to address regional concerns. This includes the decision-making process. As in ASEAN, decisions in the SAARC are made by consensus. To reduce this inflexibility, ASEAN has the ‘ASEAN minus x’ scheme under which members not ready to commit to an initiative can opt out so that progress is not held up. SAARC should adopt a similar ‘SAARC minus x’ scheme.
… Pradumna B. Rana is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the International Political Economy Programme in the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
This article first appeared here on RSIS Commentary.
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Last updated on 13/10/2016