The hope of Dhaka

SAARC at 20, Bangladesh, and the possibilities of eastern Southasia.

The twice-postponed summit meeting of SAARC leaders is slated for Dhaka in November, and will take place barring natural or manmade disasters. It was in this city 20 years ago that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was born, bringing to reality the statesmanlike vision of the late president Ziaur Rahman.

It needs no elaboration to say that SAARC has yet to fulfil its original commitment to promote mutual trust and confidence and to enhance economic cooperation in the region. Certainly, some of this can be blamed on the adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan over the past two decades, which has often dissipated much of SAARC's potential energy into meaningless polemic, benefiting none. But maybe it is also time for some real introspection: to see whether, in this age of globalisation, every SAARC member has adequately addressed its responsibilities to strengthen its neighbouring relationships. SAARC's success in promoting Southasian development and a Southasian voice continues to rest in the sum of its bilateral relationships.

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Himal Southasian