India undermines SAARC

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The year 2022 is likely to present daunting and critical challenges for the South Asian region hampered by multifarious problems and unresolved political issues like Kashmir, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the growing spread of Omicron and Covid, the climate change-induced natural disastrous leading to socio-political unrest besides the preexisting abysmal human rights and development record of the region as a whole. Yet recent statements pouring out of India; especially by the spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in response to renewed offers by Pakistan to join the 19th summit of SAARC reveal its indifference and unwillingness to lend a helping hand in jointly addressing the multitude of regional issues. No wonder then that the so-called largest South Asian democracy has earned the title of “electoral autocracy” given by the V-Dem Institute.

Far from being part of a solution to the regional problems, due to its partisan politics and self-serving parochial agenda, India continues the issues unattended and unresolved-Kashmir being the most prominent example. The amateurish attitude of Indian leadership towards regional forums like SAARC speaks volumes of India’s hegemonic designs, its growing drift towards authoritarianism domestically and regionally. Indian war crimes in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir-an an internationally recognized disputed territory, the ‘otherization’ of religious minorities inside India in pursuit of Hindutva ideology, and domination of smaller neighbors seeking strategic autonomy in dealing with China and wanting New Delhi to prioritize regional forums like SAARC reflect its hegemonic policies. Indeed, India’s myopic attitude has rendered a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional.

Given that the participation of all member states is mandatory for convening SAARC summit, it is unfortunate that by creating artificial barriers and exercising its virtual veto so far over many small neighbors, India has been preventing Pakistan from convening the event thus undermining regional growth and development. Yet, Pakistan must never desist from pursuing peace, regional cooperation, integration, harmony, and development discouraged by an increasingly hawkish and fascist India under Modi.

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