N. P. Upadhyaya
Kathmandu: Neighboring Pakistan, better late than never, has freshly exhibited its fervent desire to see the almost dead regional body-the SAARC, to come to new life.
The idea to give a new lease of life to the SAARC regional body was in all likelihood sounded by new SAARC Secretary General from Sri Lanka, Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, who very recently visited the Islamic Republic of Pakistan-the next Chair of the SAARC regional organization if the regional rouge, India, allows the SAARC Summit to resume its stalled Summits.
To recall, SAARC-South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation was created in December 1985. It comprises of some eight countries; India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan. Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The new Sri Lankan dignitary assumed his office, March 01, 2021 in Kathmandu-the Head Quarter of the SAARC Secretariat.
Ambassador Weerakoon was in Islamabad from December 22 to 25, 2021, last year during which he met the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and FM S. M. Qureshi.
Though it was a customary visit to Pakistan but yet what could be presumed that since Sri Lanka and Pakistan have remained trusted and reliable friends since the “Safaya-annihilation” of the Tamil Tigers-the brain child of the regional hooligan-India which was forced to take birth in Sri Lanka to destabilize the island nation, the SAARC SG may have encouraged Pak to raise the issue.
The combined efforts of China and Pakistan did away with the Sri Lankan menace in 2009.
To recall, the regional body-the SAARC was pushed to a dark corner for over half a decade immediately after the advent of the Islamophobe Indian Prime Minister Modi who ascended to the Indian throne in 2014.
Since 2014, the SAARC body remains non-operational thanks the Moditva clique in India.
To be even candid the fact is that the South Asian regional instrument got derailed when back in the year 2005 at the Dhaka SAARC Summit, a visible tussle in between the Nepali King Gyanendra and the then Indian Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh took place to the utter dismay of the entire South Asian population.
The scrimmage was associated with the Nepal King lobbying for the inclusion of the Observer status for China then on the other hand, the Italian Queen’s personal assistant Dr. M. M. Singh had preference for Afghanistan’s entry into the regional body unconditionally.
The wrangle ended with Dr. Singh complying with King Gyanendra’s choice for China in SAARC as an Observer and the Nepal King was flexible enough to include Afghanistan as per the wishes of the Italian queen who was ruling the Indian regime through her Indian proxy-Dr. Man Mohan Singh.
Dr. Singh wished to thwart the designs of the Nepali King when the latter wished to see the inclusion of China in the SAARC body for fear of the region going to the pockets of China.
Perhaps Dr. Singh was correct in that China has now its “active” presence in Dhaka, Colombo, Islamabad, Male and Kathmandu even to some extent.
But yet it is not at par with India’s.
Unreliable China is a reality in South Asia and is a thing now that neither the regional villain nor the rest of the world powers could dismiss.
Untrustworthy China is very much in the South Asian region for long time to come.
But China’s engagement with Pakistan is bit different.
The manner the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is expanding, needless to say, the entire Central Asian countries that are close to Pakistan have been appealing Pakistan to allow these to use the Gwadar port for the expansion of their commercial ties with the countries in Europe and the likes.
This way, the Gwadar port is sure to change the face of Pakistan, is a game changer, in a few years to come if Islamabad authorities effectively use the harbor that has been pinching the Indian establishment.
As regards Pakistan’s exports to Central Asian countries, it is talked to have witnessed an increase of 41 million dollars during last fiscal year as compared to the preceding year.
In addition, Pakistan is also negotiating Preferential Trade Agreements and transit trade agreements with nearby countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
We don’t have much idea on how is the Pakistan’s commercial ties with the SA countries but for sure it must have been much below to what its turnover are with the CAR’s.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the recent days chaired a high-level meeting on “Vision Central Asia” to explore effective land and air links with the central Asian states with a view to boost economic cooperation and trade.
Pakistan, media reports have it that, is trying to link the CARs with air which may allow Pakistan to ignore the SAARC body if India’s idea of isolating Pakistan continues for some time more which annoys Islamabad.
For the record, Pakistan was to host the 19th summit of the regional body in November 2016, but India, supported by its allies Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan abruptly postponed the Summit indefinitely.
Nepal is the undeclared “tail” of the Indian regime.
Pakistan has yet another alternative to expand its trade and commerce ties with Turkey and Tehran.
On January 4, early this year, a freight train from Islamabad reached Turkey through Tehran carrying 150 metric tons of pink salt.
This way, SAARC is of least significance to Pakistan should it desire so.
But since Pakistan is very much a part of South Asia and that is why she has some “affinity” with the smaller countries in this region and thus its stay in SAARC is still desirable.
Two things, to be candid, are there which annoys India.
First, China is helping Pakistan and is intending to make it equally competent with its rival-India.
The CPEC is a game changer for Pakistan, it is a fact now.
Needless to say, Pakistan is already a matching nuclear deterrent to the regional bully thanks to late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who elevated the ranks of Pakistan to the world stage.
A detour but yet on SAARC:
This scribe is reminded of an incident of high political significance that had almost dismantled the SAARC regional body in the mid or late nineties.
Frankly speaking, the idea of isolating Pakistan from the South Asian region is not a new phenomenon engineered by the hooligan Indian establishment.
After seducing satellite governments in Dhaka, Kathmandu, Thimpu, the Indian rouge regime formed a “quadrangle” comprising of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and India itself which was intended to divorce Pakistan from the SA regional body.
Subsequently, a South Asian quadrangle (now defunct) within South Asian region came into existence which had purposely cornered Pakistan.
Naturally this clandestine move designed by the regional cheat irked Pakistan and the latter in no uncertain terms expressed its “desire” to quit the SAARC once and for all.
hat time Nepal had active Monarch-King Birendra who disliked a sub-regional grouping well within the broader South Asian assemblage.
King Birendra then was the one who actively opposed this idea, however, his ministers in the Cabinet had sold themselves to the RAW machine and thus had to prefer to distance Pakistan as per the “intent” of the Indian regime.
One Nepali cheat (?) is associated with the RPP yet making “nationalist” utterances in the Idiot Box.
Pakistan was about to resign from the SAARC body once and for all but in the meantime the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Laxman Kadirgamer intervened and tried his best to convince the Pakistani foreign minister that with Pakistan’s absence in the SAARC body, the entire regional mechanism will collapse like house of cards.
After Colombo’s intense lobbying, wisdom prevailed and Pakistan shelved its idea to quit the SAARC.
Pakistan knew fully well that Indian control over the SAARC body will increase manifold if and when the former leaves the regional apparatus.
But yet Pakistan since that time has been attending the SAARC Summits only to honor the Sri Lankan mediation.
But one thing came to the surface immediately-the Pakistani retaliation.
Pakistan began to hint the world body more so to the South Asian regional countries that “Pakistan doesn’t need SAARC….we have close commercial, political and economic cooperation with the nearby central Asian countries and that the SAARC regional conglomerate needs Pakistan very much but not the otherwise.
Laxman Kadirgamer’s “underneath” mediation worked and things went with the SAARC well afterwards.
The Sri Lankan foreign minister Laxman was not only a seasoned diplomat but also an “exemplary” leader whose personality was recognized by the then world leaders.
This modest international relations expert from Sri Lanka was assassinated in Colombo on 12 August, 2005.
It was a cold blooded murder indeed.
He many a times visited Jaffna, Sri Lanka to locate his roots but in his entire political career, Laxman appealed the world powers not to encourage the Tamil Liberation Tigers (LTTE) with financial assistance.
On a personal note: This scribe have had the honor to meet the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Laxman Kadirgamer when he was accompanying President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s first ever Nepal visit at King Birendra’s invitation.
I met both FM Laxman and President Chandrika at the Soaltee Hotel as an invitee of the Sri Lankan envoy in Kathmandu at a reception thrown in honor of President Kumaratunga.
Apparently annoyed by the Indian attitude of isolating Pakistan in the SAARC body, I recall, the Pakistani Ambassadors posted in South Asia began sounding India that Pakistan can survive without the SAARC but not the latter.
I recall, Ambassador Zamir Akram in Kathmandu summoned a press conference in the pakistan embassy and told the press men that his country’s ties with the Central Asian countries were more than excellent and that Pakistan is in the SAARC group only to assure other South Asian nations that it is also a part of South Asia but nothing more than that.
Now back to the SAARC affairs:
The inner intent of the Indian regime is still to segregate Pakistan and it is this “preconceived” desire that India is not allowing the other SAARC countries to make a concerted voice of the happening of the stalled SAARC Summit which was, as per the tradition on alphabetical order, Pakistan’s turn to convene the 19yth. SAARC Summit wherein Nepal-the current Chair of the regional body, had to hand over the next Chairmanship to the host country.
It is this Pakistani fear that India is stalling the SAARC summits and unfortunately the smaller countries of South Asia tentatively were siding with the Indian intimidating regime for fear of being subjected to “economic blockade” of the past.
Even India’s declared protectorate Baby Bhutan have had to experience “economic blockade” as Thimpu dared to “import” some transport vehicles from Beijing.
What is for sure is that Thimpu too is distancing itself from Delhi.
Close on the heels of Ambassador Weerakoon’s visit to Islamabad, Prime Minister Khan is learnt to have talked in his office with the Nepali Ambassador Tapas Adhikari on the resumption of the SAARC Summit as Nepal is the current Chair of the regional body.
PM Khan apparently hinted Nepali envoy during the meet to take the much needed initiative to revive the “dormant” SAARC as the current SAARC Chair.
The helpless Nepali envoy. Will “comfortable” S. B. Deuba listen to his diplomatic note? Not in my lifetime.
The sudden and unexpected press meet held in Pakistani Foreign Minister S. M. Qureshi early this year, January 4, 2022, wherein FM Qureshi sent signals to rival India that “if India doesn’t want to drop in Islamabad for the 19th SAARC Summit in person then it can partake in the regional summit “virtually” as is the practice now after the advent of Covid-19 pandemic.
As stated earlier, Pakistan had very freshly proposed India to resume the SAARC meet even if it is a “virtual” one to which India has rejected once again the Pakistani offer.
Media reports, January 8, 2022, from Islamabad say that “Pakistan has blamed New Delhi for making the eight member regional body dysfunctional”.
The media reports further say that, “India’s obstruction of the SAARC process is an established fact….India’s myopic attitude is rendering a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional”.
It is because Nepal’s weak and “India controlled” leadership at the top that has no guts/stamina to press the regional thug to participate in the stalled SAARC meet.
The India “comfortable” regime in Nepal has no morale to scold India as today’s Nepali leaders have duly been “elevated” by the Indian jingoists to take full control of the ever independent and sovereign Nepal.
Unconfirmed reports say that most of the Nepali leaders were in RAW payroll which should explain why is Nepal’s inability to challenge Indian establishment?
Pakistan-an equal match and a nuclear deterrent to India is tentatively absent in Nepal or else Pakistani attendance together with China’s would have changed the very geo-politics of South Asia and Nepal in all likelihood.
Pakistan too is to be blamed for its weak presence in South Asia including Nepal.
Foreign Minister Qureshi has no time to visit South Asian capitals. Some even say that he is not even a seasoned diplomat also as was evident from his “calculated” insult and disrespect shown to the visiting Saudi Ambassador a few days back at his office.
The Saudis reportedly are not that happy with FM Qureshi’s and have told PM Khan to sack Qureshi with someone who knows well the diplomatic etiquette and the required niceties.
Back to SAARC again:
India’s intended refusal of distancing Pakistan from the SAARC does tell that India fears the possible influence of Pakistan on smaller SA countries.
The fear is real which is why India is scared.
Nepali observers opine that Pakistan’s desire for convening of the SAARC meet at the earliest could be guided by its fervent desire to get Taliban government in Afghanistan recognized by the SA regional body.
At the UN Ghani’s man still is working as Afghan representative to which Pakistan has strong reservations.
Whereas India is unwilling to recognize the new Afghani set up because its preferred ruler Ashraf Ghani is absconding and his comeback in Afghani politics for some time appears remote.
It is this pain that India is feeling since last August-the month the Talibs took control over Kabul.
As regards recognition to Taliban(s) is concerned, our own contention has been that the US, China, the Russians, and the European Union top leaders have had close door talks with the Talibs on different occasions which in itself amounts to recognition.
The three plus meet (US, China, Russia and Pakistan) in Doha with Taliban, to recall, was in itself a grand acknowledgement to Taliban.
Yes the formal declaration is eagerly awaited though.
The 57 member block of the Organization of Islamic Countries which met last year end in Islamabad and had the Talibani participation was no less than a “recognition” to the Talibani authorities.
But yes, all that Pakistan needs to do is to suggest the Taliban authorities in Kabul to “be flexible enough” in its dealings with the opponents and the female folks and in addition to rule the country as desired by the international bodies and the countrymen.
PM Modi’s reluctance in resuming SAARC meet is because he is interested in BIMSTEC (B’desh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand) and he will for sure push BIMSTEC to the defunct level of the SAARC as per his habit.
Except India, the rest of the members in the Bay of Bengal initiative were the “appendages” of India.
A million dollar advice to Pakistan from Nepal:
If India can design the creation of a sub-regional quadrangle ( now defunct) in the nineties then Pakistan too should take necessary initiatives to “isolate” India with the construction of a Nepal, Bangladesh, Si Lanka and Pakistan quadrangle or a triangle leaving Nepal.
But will Nepal-the new tail of India prefer to side with Pakistan in such a quadrangle or a triangle on Zainal Abedin’s line of preference?
Pakistan must begin intense diplomatic lobbying for such a quadrangle solely aimed at isolating India. That’s all.