Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Isolated Pakistan seeks bigger SAARC to counter India’s influence

Narada Desk | October 12, 2016 12:50 pm Print
Following Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Uri attack, India had last month announced that it would not attend the regional group’s 19th summit, scheduled in Islamabad on Nov 15 and 16

After the cancellation of SAARC summits, Pakistan is exploring the possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s controlling hold on the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), diplomatic observers were quoted as saying by Pakistani newspapers.

The idea to counter India’s controlling hold on eight-member was heaved by a Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation , which is now in New York, during its five-day visit to Washington last week.

Speaking to reporters, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said, “A greater South Asia is already emerging. This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian republics.”

According to a report in Dawn online, Syed described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the key economic route linking South Asia with Central Asia. The Gwadar port, he pointed out, would be the nearest warm water port, not only for China but also for the land-locked Central Asian states.

“We want India to join this arrangement as well,” said Mr Hussain, an offer Indians are unlikely to accept as they are comfortable with the advantage that Saarc provides them.

Last month, soon after the Uri attack, in which 19 Indian army were killed by Pakistani terrorists, Indian announced that it would not attend the regional group’s 19th summit, scheduled in Islamabad on Nov 15 and 16.

Supporting India’s move, other Saarc nations — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka — joined the boycott. The boycott led to an indefinite postponement of the summit and exposed Pakistan’s isolation within the group where it once played a key role.

“Pakistan hopes that this new arrangement will give it more room to manoeuvre when India tries to force a decision on it,” said another diplomat, according to the Pakistani newspaper.

Diplomatic observers in Washington, as per the report, said that the proposed arrangement also suits China as it is also worried about India’s rapidly growing influence in the region. They argue that China can play an important role in persuading Central Asian republics and Iran to join the new arrangement.