WASHINGTON: Pakistan is exploring the possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s hold on the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), diplomatic observers said.
A parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, which is now in New York, pitched this idea during its five-day visit to Washington last week, Dawn online reported on Wednesday.
“A greater South Asia is already emerging,” said senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in one of his interactions with the media.
“This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian republics.”
He described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the key economic route linking South Asia with Central Asia.
The Gwadar port, he said, would be the nearest warm water port, not only for China but also for the landlocked Central Asian states.
“We want India to join this arrangement as well,” said Hussain, an offer India is unlikely to accept as it is comfortable with the advantage provided by Saarc.
Last month, India pulled out of the 19th Saarc summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad on November 15 and 16.
India cited Pakistan’s involvement in the September 18 terrorist attack at an army camp in Kashmir’s Uri , in which 19 soldiers died, as the reason for its decision to boycott the summit.
India has blamed Pakistan for the attack, a claim which Islamabad has denied. Other Saarc nations — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka — joined India in pulling out of the meeting. According to Dawn, the boycott has led to an indefinite postponement of the summit and exposed Pakistan’s isolation within the region.
“Apparently, the showdown forced Pakistan to conclude that in its present shape, Saarc will always be dominated by India. That’s why they are now talking about a greater South Asia,” said a diplomat.