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India’s Absence at SAARC Finance Minister’s Meet

India’s Absence at SAARC Finance Minister’s Meet

The recent Finance Minister’s Meet of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) registered India’s absence. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not attend the summit and many regional experts say that India is sending a wrong signal to the rest of the South Asian nations. Also India using the SAARC forum to target Pakistan for its nefarious activities may not be helpful for the entire region. At the moment, the international community is closely monitoring how India will respond to the upcoming annual SAARC meet in Pakistan in November. The finance ministers of SAARC nations reiterated their resolve to establish the South Asian Economic Union (SETU) which was indeed originally conceptualized in 1998 in a report prepared by the SAARC Group of Eminent Persons (SGEP). As they all highlighted the key issues in regard to broader regional economic organization, Jaitley should have been there. In an estimate prepared by the World Bank, states that South Asia is the fastest growing region in the world, with economic growth projected to increase from 7.1 per cent in 2016 to 7.3 per cent in 2017. Thus economic cooperation among the South Asian countries must be strengthened. Else the entire sub-continent is going to suffer for sure.

How India can play a vital role in South Asia? Is the strained relationship between India and Pakistan paralyzing the growth prospect of South Asia? Is there any way forward? India missed the SAARC Finance Ministers meet and for a visionary politician like Jiatley, the forum could have provided an ideal platform to push new innovative ideas. Barring all personal reservations, he should have come forward. India must take the lead despite having all the odds in India-Pakistan relations. Since the beginning of the formation of the SAARC, due to the constant and of course historical faultlines between the two neighbours, the forum is not been able to make any headway. It is a regressive syndrome. Both the neighbours must settle their bilateral issues separately without disturbing the regional organization. Above all, Pakistan must re-look at itself and put its house in control without renting it out to the jihadists. Then, peacefully, India and Pakistan can resolve their differences. Thereafter, Jaitley should not miss out any such opportunity at all. India must engage all its South Asian counterparts.



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