AT a webinar, organized by the Institute of Regional Studies and participated by representatives from the member countries to mark 36th Charter Day of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), speakers emphasized the need for revival of the Association to help realize the cherished objectives for which it was formed – to promote regional cooperation and to accelerate the pace of social and economic development in South Asia. They believed there was no other choice for the member states as they have already invested too much in the organization to let it go dormant.
SAARC, indeed, has the potential to contribute significantly towards socio-economic development of a region which encapsulates one-fifth of the humanity and is bestowed with immense natural resources as well as human resource. Pooling of the resources can help mitigate sufferings of the people of the region but the organization has not been able to move forward in the spirit of its Charter mainly because of political differences and trust deficit among member countries. This is despite the fact that there have been calls from saner elements that difference apart the organization should move on issues on which there is consensus as mutual cooperation would be beneficial for all countries because of similarity of issues especially backwardness. There was also a positive suggestion from Dr. Rabilal Dhakael, an academic from Bhutan, who called for modifying the SAARC Charter to enable it to discuss all issues confronted by the member countries including the contentious ones. He was justified in criticizing the unanimity clause in the SAARC Charter for decision-making, which has become one of the major obstacles in turning the platform into a vibrant tool for regional cooperation. India has repeatedly misused this clause to disallow hosting of SAARC summit in Pakistan and implementation of otherwise workable proposals mooted by other members for boosting cooperation in different fields. India has become a spoiler and this has been confirmed once again by the message that the Indian Prime Minister released on the occasion in which he has raised accusing fingers as far as the issue of terrorism is concerned, without, of course, realizing that his own country was the biggest state-sponsor of terrorism. As against this, Prime Minister of Pakistan made an impassioned appeal for sharing of resources for providing a better future to the vulnerable segments of our societies through the platform provided by SAARC. In this backdrop, there is dire need for amending the SAARC Charter so that the Association could take decisions with majority vote.