Making Sense of Regional Cooperation: SAARC at Twenty

Smruti S. Pattanaik is Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • January 2006

    The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) completed two decades of its existence in 2005. Yet it has only made modest progress in achieving its regional goals. The reasons for this are many. Successful regionalism requires a shared faith in collective gains and a vision for long-term cooperation that has been missing. There has been a visible lack of trust among some of the principal actors, a preponderance of domestic political consideration and a strong sensitivity towards sovereignty that has prevented collective action and gains from cooperation. Some of the states have followed an enemy construct against their regional neighbours in shaping their respective identity. This has inevitably resulted in suspicion, mistrust and divergent security objectives. SAARC as a result has not been able to attain its objectives as defined in the Charter. However, a rapidly changing international environment, globalisation and new security challenges underline the necessity for regional cooperation, especially for the smaller states.

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