WEB DESK: The Saarc was born with a congenital disability – from day one New Delhi suspects it’s some sort of anti-India gang-up. Conceived by the then Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman its first summit at Dhaka, in 1985, was attended by the then anti-India-known trio Hussain Irshad, JR Jayewardene and General Ziaul Haq.
By now that disability should have cured, but if Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s posturing at the 7th Saarc Interior/Home Ministers’ meeting in Islamabad on Thursday is any evidence, it hasn’t fully. On arrival he offered only half a hand to his host to shake, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and also left the meeting halfway in a huff. Apparently, he had come only to speak and not listen.
All he wanted was to tell Pakistanis on their face that they are terrorists; and not hear what could be their response. What is happening in Occupied Kashmir right now, he didn’t want to hear. But Chaudhry Nisar is not one who would not hit back. He cautioned the participants not to confuse Kashmiris’ movement for freedom with terrorism; the ploy New Delhi is apt at misleading the world. If Taj at Mumbai was struck by terrorists so were the Army Public School in Peshawar, Bacha Khan University at Charsadda and Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. In Bangladesh, the lakeside café was victim of a terrorist attack.
Incidence of terrorism is not specific to India; it is all over the place. But what is not common is the Kashmiris’ movement for freedom. It cannot, and should not, be suppressed in the name of fighting terrorism. Their movement is sanctified by the United Nations. Quite appropriately, Chaudhry Nisar has called upon his Indian counterpart to do some soul-searching. “I think we have come a long way since then and the answer is that we should sit down and resolve our disputes.”
Modi’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, was not here to discuss how the eight-member Saarc, a region with 21 percent of world’s population and nearly 10 percent of the world’s economy mired in poverty and ignorance could be a viable cooperative platform to replace hatred with love and turn this beautiful landscape into popular tourist destination. The ministers from rest of the remember-states were not here to be hijacked by Pak-India confrontational mindsets. They were here to discuss how to close ranks to fight terrorism, combat the menace of narcotics, and fight maritime piracy and such other issues of common interest.
The meeting was to also discuss the Saarc Visa Exemption Scheme, but it could only agree on validating the three-year visa regime for staff of the Saarc secretariat. In fact, the meeting could not go beyond repeating generalities, unlike many other regional organisations which have succeeded in arriving at a host of mutually beneficial arrangements in the socio-economic and geopolitical areas of common interest. But 21 years on, Saarc remains ineffective grouping.
Although India is undoubtedly larger than all the rest put together, in the scheme of regional organisations what counts is not the size of territory or population but the fact of sovereign equality and inescapable reality of neighbourliness. That its minister came only to browbeat the host country wasn’t on with Chaudhry Nisar. It’s our hope that next time when they meet in Colombo, India would send somebody with a work-oriented agenda.
Source: Business Recorder