The first-ever virtual summit of leaders from member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on March 15 was an innovative exercise in showing solidarity in containing a pandemic. Here is an assessment of its tangible outcomes – and longer-term ways to prepare for SAARC’s revival
Bangladesh fulfills an important stabilising role in South Asia. It has been able to perform this function in the last decade because of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to fortify the domestic scenario by first cracking down on terror outfits – and their political fronts. The clean-up was necessary, but a robust Opposition and democratic institutions need to be nourished too
India is subtly adding four new elements in the policy matrix
India’s foreign policy is increasingly blended in with its domestic agenda – and vice versa. Prime Minister Modi’s past proactive foreign policy has paid dividends in bringing global attention to India, a fact young voters have noticed and approved. In his second term, what will India’s foreign policy look like? A continuum of the past, but also new frameworks for the future
Bangladesh faces several major challenges in its external relations. It showed humanitarianism in receiving the fleeing Rohingyas, but its diplomatic efforts to repatriate them have not succeeded. It must also maintain a balance between relations with India and China and show proactive leadership in garnering regional cooperation
Regional groupings in South Asia have turned out to be like diligent pupils whose report cards show performance below par. The reasons for such an impasse range from political divergences to the economic downturn and the much talked about China factor that has many implications for India
This regional grouping has to deliver on promises in collaboration with governments and corporate India so that neglected issues – from the Rohingya crisis to the scheduling of the next summit, and arriving at an agreement on the Free Trade Area – enter the national discourse
This regional grouping, which was envisioned as a potential bridge between SAARC and ASEAN, turns 20 on June 6. It achieved very little until last year, when efforts to revive its original mission began quite by accident. It has the potential to make greater strides if member states adhere to their commitments.
Perhaps South Block did not gain as much as it had hoped to: there was a gulf in member states’ perceptions. One takeaway, therefore, for policy makers was that while noise has its uses, it is now time for some quiet diplomacy
The recent BRICS summit and BIMSTEC outreach highlighted some laudable maritime endeavours linking geographically distant, emerging economies within the grouping. The BIMSTEC platform is also crucial to India's efforts to create a peaceful Bay of Bengal community through economic and cultural linkages.