SAARC and India
Policy Issues hinge on security and democracy
The entire project of SAARC is dependent on India’s capacity to bind the neighbouring states in multiple networks of ties to promote regional cooperation. India not only shares frontiers with all the SAARC countries, but also ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious histories. If India can persuade SAARC members to view south Asia as a viable regional entity, it can promote projects of development cooperation. But that’s easier said than done. For, the success of such an enterprise depends on how well the problems pertaining to security and democracy are addressed.
India’s refusal to attend the 13th summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the eventual postponement the SAARC’s Dhaka summit of February 2005 has raised a number of questions regarding the likely course and the prospects of regional cooperation in south Asia. India’s decision to keep out of the summit apparently was shaped by two major concerns. First, some of the recent events in Bangladesh such as the attack on Sheikh Hasina, the deaths of Belaluddin, a journalist, and former finance minister Shah A. Kibria in two separate bomb blasts have made India apprehensive of the deteriorating law and order conditions in Bangladesh. Besides, Khaleda Zia regime’s support to insurgent groups in India’s northeast and persistent attacks on democratic and secular parties by anti-India fundamentalist groups linked to the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have merely compounded the security related anxieties of India. Under these circumstances, Dhaka as a venue of the summit with the prevailing political turmoil in Bangladesh made India wary of security arrangements in the host country. Second, King Gynendra’s seizure of power in Nepal, through suspension of the democratic and constitutional processes, also prompted India to refrain from sharing the platform with the Gynendra...