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Pakistan's ambitious greater SAARC may not be feasible due to its terror record
Pakistan's complete isolation in SAARC at the behest of India has made the Pakistani government desperate which is now mulling over a bigger SAARC. The Pakistani delegates visiting USA have pitched in for such an organisation for countering India's influence in the existing SAARC.

Pakistani senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, in an interaction had said, "A greater South Asia is already emerging. This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighboring Central Asian republics."

The present SAARC was in fact constituted after much deliberations since 1947 by the efforts of Bangladesh's Prime Minister Ziaur Rahman and Nepal's King Birendra. Soon, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives also agreed for such a regional cooperation organisation but both India and Pakistan remained skeptical on SAARC.

India was apprehending that small neighbouring nations may gang up against it to dilute India's bilateral advantage over these neighbours on commerce, economical front and south Asian security issues while Pakistan saw it as an Indian strategy to monopolise regional markets for its commerce and making these smaller nations turn against it.

However, after lot of reluctance, SAARC was constituted in Dhaka in 1985 with its secretariat based in Nepal. Interestingly, SAARC is now constituted mainly by India and its neighbouring countries. SAARC has an observer status in the UN and has links with multilateral entities.

Despite bitter Indo-Pak relations and Pakistan's efforts to curtail Indian influence, SAARC became one of the most significant organisations in which Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea, United States of America and the European Union have joined as observers. Afghanistan was given full membership following its 2007 elections. Russia and Turkey have applied for observer status whereas Myanmar has applied for full member status.

Here, the point to be noted is that the importance of SAARC for big economies is due to the Indian market. Along with India, all other member countries except Pakistan have benefited from SAARC. Pakistan couldn't drive home the advantage due to its domestic problems like terrorism and too much interference from military heads etc.

India's influence in SAARC has became supreme as its market is an attracting factor for all. Thus, Pakistan intentionally wants to foil some of the ambitious projects proposed by India such as sharing of satellites and easing cross-border transportation of commercial goods etc. Many a times Pakistan has tried to give China full membership so as to curtail India's influence. But it's India which has always prevailed.

To counter Pakistan's foiling attitude, India developed sub groups like BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation) involving Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. BIMSTEC was formerly known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh,India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic cooperation).

India is further planning sub groups by involving Sri Lanka, Maldives, Iran and Afghanistan so that Pakistan's sabotage attempts can be taken care of. The proposals vetoed by Pakistan in SAARC can be carried forward through these sub groups.

To counter this, Pakistan is aiming for a group having all the SAARC countries plus China, Iran and other central Asian countries. It is assuming that India will refuse to be part of it where as others will be interested to take benefits from the CPEC project. This way Pakistan intends to counter and even corner India.

But this ambitious plan is not going to succeed for Pakistan because of many reasons. First if all, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are land locked states and share their borders with India, making them very much dependent on India. Thus, they will not like to annoy their powerful neighbour.

Secondly, since both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have their own commercial ports, they don't have any particular interest in the CPEC project. Afghanistan could have benefited from the CPEC, but it has sour relations with Pakistan and very cordial relations with India on the other hand. Iran too has problems with Pakistan.

Furthermore, India is developing Chabahar Port. Thus, the association between India, Iran and Afghanistan will make CPEC less significant for Afghanistan. By the same logic, other central Asian countries too might get more interested in Chabahar Port instead of Gwadar Port as the latter is marred with controversies due to the rebellion in Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. Moreover, almost all Asian countries also have their bilateral or multilateral ties with China. Thus, they will not be interested to be part of an entity for solely benefiting Pakistan and that too at the cost of India.

China might be trying to help Pakistan in order to reduce India's emerging influence. But if things escalate, Pakistan could be expelled from the present SAARC on account of spreading terror and if that happens, neither would Pakistan remain a member of the exiting SAARC nor would it be able to dream of a bigger SAARC.

Pakistan must realise now that the world is taking a serious note on terror. China might be supporting Pakistan, but its major interest lies in business with the international community. The moment China feels that due to Pakistan, it is also getting isolated, it will dump Pakistan.

No nation should depend on another nation for teaching a lesson to its inimical nation. A nation must be strong internally before seeking another nation's cooperation. To become strong, Pakistan has to shut down its policy on terror. It has to end the diktat of its military bosses. If Pakistan is able to do that, it will become a mature nation and every other country including India will be interested in doing business with Pakistan. Or else, it will remain as unofficial terrorist country and no one will be interested in siding with Pakistan in the true sense.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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