SAARC-South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation

5. Asymmetry between India and Member Countries

There is economic, technological and demographic imbalance between India and other member countries of SAARC. India being larger in size, economy and possessing high technological infrastructure dominates other members. India accounts for more than three quarters of the regional GDP and technological infrastructure and two third of the global exports of the region. The smaller countries in South Asia feel uncomfortable about their trade relations with India because under the current tariff structure, India runs a large trade surplus with her neighbors. Also, India‟s volume of informal trade with most of its neighbours is quite enormous. All south Asian countries look up to India to share its huge markets due to its size and location, where 80% of the intra-regional trade in south Asia is to or from India.

6. Lack of Trust among the Member Countries

There is also lack of trust among the member states of SAARC which does not auger well for future development of this regional organization. They still live in the cobweb of history and mutual rivalries and mistrust has caused them enormous damage already. The elites do not trust each other mainly because of their nationalistic feelings, vested interests and inter-state disputes. In the presence of such disputes, this regional organization cannot be hoped to be developed on stable footing.

7. Exclusion of Contentious Issues from SAARC Charter

The charter of SAARC itself has some self-imposed anomalies as its charter has the provision of not discussing the contentious and bilateral disputes. On the one hand, it asks for increased cooperation and exchanges and on the other hand, avoids negotiations on bilateral disputes. The charter also requires that all the decisions will be taken unanimously which becomes quite difficult. This clearly shows an unstable inter-state relationship towards equal participation in policy making for South Asian people. It can be said that the charter itself denies the true purpose of the organization. In such kind of conditions, it cannot be said to be developed on sound basis.

8. Different Political Systems

All the South Asian countries are having different kinds of political systems which is also the reason for the failure of SAARC. South Asia has not been a strong democratic region. Like in India there is democracy, in Pakistan there is transitional democracy, kingship in Nepal and presidential systemin Sri Lanka. Most of the countries have remained unstable. The dispute between the two countries i.e. Pakistan and India over Kashmir issue has never let these two countries to go well together and set aside their differences on the SAARC forum. Apart from this, India is having disputes with rest of the member countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and this thing has not helped SAARC objectives to be achieved.

9. Lack of People to People Contacts

The contact of the people with the Association is zero as well as with the people of the member countries. They donot know when was the Association made and what was the purpose behind it. In such a kind of scenario, how can they join together to help their own states solve their problems.

10. Lack of Strong Infrastructure

South Asian countries share some common features as well like cheap labor, low incomes, low value added commodities and comparative advantage in same commodities like tea and garments etc. The intraregional trade cannot be successful in such conditions where the trade and economic structure and industrial infrastructure is similar. Almost all the member countries are not very strong economically and instead of intraregional trade, they search for other markets globally.

11. Pathetic Condition of South Asia

About 300 million people of the South Asian region lack basic facilities and it is the most deprived region in terms that more than 340 million people lack safe drinking water. More than 840 million are without good sanitation and 400 million go hungry every day. SAARC is the most militarized place in world; its two countries Pakistan and India are spending 30 billion dollars on their defense expense. Afghanistan, its new member is facing war. In view of these all major problems, how such an Association can successfully work.

12. Some other Problems with SAARC

There are also some other constraints with the processes of SAARC which can be described as follows:

  •  The inability of the officials and leaders to envision the potential advantages of regional integration. In other words, we can say that the leaders have not yet made a serious and sincere cost-benefit analysis of the advantages of cooperation and damages of no cooperation.
  •  Very strict rules followed at the official level and by the SAARC Secretariat.
  •  Red tapism, paper work and bureaucratic hassles at the secretariat due to which every task takes more than required time to be completed.
  • Unnecessary formalities
  •  Lack of political will at the leadership level.
  •  The condition of unanimous decision making and consensus building for the issues which can be resolved bilaterally.
  •  Absence of collective vision for rejuvenating the region in the face of the globalization challenge.
  •  Border clashes and war like situation accentuated by infiltration and terrorism accusations.
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