The Bold Voice of J&K

Saarc survival

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The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) risks becoming defunct or irrelevant if member countries do not address the “core” issue of cross-border terrorism. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the first South Asian leader to voice doubt about the eight-nation bloc’s future amid tensions in the region. Wickremesinghe said, “Cross-border terrorism is on the table. SAARC has to look at it and discuss what has happened (cancellation of the SAARC meet at Islamabad). How we are going to handle it… SAARC has to decide on two issues -cross-border terrorism and areas in which we can work together. If we don’t do it, there is no future for SAARC.” War, he said, was not an option and rooting out terrorism was a long haul. SAARC had not moved anywhere because it was held hostage by the India-Pakistan conflict, he said. Complimenting Modi for his handling of the current phase of tensions with Pakistan, Wickremesinghe said the effort should be to see how SAARC could continue, not whether it should be without one or two members. With the cancellation of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad, Sri Lanka is apparently taking the lead to explore options for an alternative South Asia structure. In Auckland earlier this week, Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying, “This year’s SAARC summit is in jeopardy due to the war prevailing on the border. However, as SAARC plays an important role, carrying out the summit is a matter of great importance. While the failure of SAARC to deliver acceptable results for all members would spell out a bleak future, it would also compel Sri Lanka to look towards other viable options.” In Delhi, Wickremesinghe did not specify the alternatives but was clear that they would have to include all member states, otherwise “it can’t be South Asia”. Citing Sri Lanka’s own long war against terrorism, he said Indians would appreciate his remarks in due course. India was in a crucial phase he said, “and how you go forward will be important for your country”.

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