With Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in economic doldrums, and Afghanistan under Islamist Taliban occupation, the future of SAARC is dark. This leaves India no option but to engage neighbourhood bilaterally and ensure that its national security is not compromised.
Speaking at the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014, the last one of the grouping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “The future I dream (of) for India, is the future I wish for the entire region.”
The 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad was put to sword by Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which attacked the Uri Brigade headquarters and killed 19 Indian Army troopers and injured another two score on September 18, 2016.
Except Nepal, the chair, all other SAARC countries walked out of the summit with India.
Eight years after the last summit, Afghanistan is under the rule of a radical Islamist Taliban regime with total budget for the current year (as announced on May 18) a mere $2.6 billion. The country is on verge of famine and disease as the ISI-sponsored Haqqani Network led by global terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani fights for the control of Kabul with the Kandahar Taliban led by Mullah Omar’s son Yaqub. Economically ravaged, the country is on life-support, with jihad and drugs being its only global exports.
The irony is that the Taliban in Afghanistan are now locked in a simmering conflict with their mentor, the Pakistan Army, and refuses to recognize the Durand Line as it divides the Pashtun tribe between the two countries.
In Pakistan, even though Imran Khan Niazi has been booted out of power, ending the political turmoil (for now), Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is facing a full-blown economic crisis at hand and does not have a magic wand to miraculously solve the country’s multiple problems.
The Pakistani Rupee has scored a double century against a US dollar and the country’s external debt has crossed more than 71% of the GDP with food inflation and interest rates in double digits. Thanks to the myopic vision and arrogance of Khan, Pakistan today has made an adversary out of former close allies, the US, and the EU, but has close ties with Communist states of China and now Russia. Sharif is in a Catch-22 situation where tough economic decisions could bring the public on the streets and status quo will lead to disaster and ruin. And for that he must thank Imran Khan for doing his bit by trying to play the imperial power game in Kabul and getting on the wrong side of better players of the great game in a desperately poor country.