Why India should not think of exiting Saarc after seeing Brexit

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It is surprising to see certain quarters wanting to see a Brexit-like outcome in South Asia by suggesting that India should also exit from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). Even the slightest of comparison between the European Union (EU) and the Saarc doesn't stand and the ground realities in Europe and South Asia are vastly different to draw a parallel.

Suggesting an Indexit from Saarc is meaningless

To suggest that there should be an Indexit from Saarc is pointless for many reasons. First and foremost, the Saarc stands nowhere the EU in terms of regional integration or supra-nationalism. Besides the geographical size, history and economy and the success stories of the two regional organisations are as contradictory as chalk and cheese.

saarc and eu flags

EU has a history of its evolution; it was then helpd by the grography and bolstered the economy

The EU's evolution has happened against a common history and that is war and devastation. It has grown step by step (from European Coal & Steel Community to the European Economic Community to today's EU) and has reached a level of saturation where it requires a new thinking to overcome the challenges.

Even if UK has left, there will not be any vacuum between it and EU in future

International relations is a complete anti-thesis to status quo and Brexit perhaps could be what the EU needed at this hour to find a way forward. There can't be any vacuum between the UK which exited the body and the EU hereafter and who knows, some fresh perspective will appear on the horizon to add a new chapter to the never-ending progress of international politics.

Given the fact that threats from various fronts have made this world embrace conservatism, it is not unexpected that peace-time arrangements led by the liberals would face their share of problems.

In case of Saarc, none of EU's traits were there ever

In case of Saarc, none of EU's success stories were ever registered. Ideas of free trade and common currency are still a faraway dream in South Asia where political and territorial adversities rule the roost.

Set up in 1985, the Saarc has not even seen at least one meeting a year in three decades as the rivalry between arch-rivals India and Pakistan has hijacked the occasion. It never had any common background or threat over inception either (the neighbouring Asean had China has a common threat)

In fact, the Saarc doesn't even see dialogues to sort out regional problems, forget the integration which the EU succeeded in achieving in Europe. Thus, when we haven't yet achieved what the EU could, there is no point in comparing the EU's shortfalls with ours.

It's a futile exercise.

An Indexit will only kill the dead

India's exit from the Saarc will only kill the dead. On the contrary, being the largest country in the bloc and that too by far, India has its own interests to address by letting the Saarc survive. If India pulls out of the Saarc in a bid to corner Pakistan, it will not serve any purpose.

India rather needs the platform to boost its neighbourhood policy and the game of isolating Pakistan can still be played by staying within it (recently, India played a major diplomatic card by reaching out to Iran and Afghanistan which has left the Pakistanis with a worried state of mind).

Saarc has a potential irrespective of its record

If India leaves the Saarc and with it, the stage for nurturing its connection with neighbours other than Pakistan, then there would be zero possibility of the volatile region finding a mechanism of cooperation to face crisis of whatever nature.

Besides terrorism, South Asia has a significant number of challenges in food security, climate, poverty etc. Absence of any common platform will ruin whatever little has been achieved in joint dealings.

An Indexit from Saarc could hurt India's image among smaller states

India can only work on cornering Pakistan in South Asia by winning by its side the other neighbours. It can pursue bilateral relations with those countries side by side so that they throw their weights behind New Delhi whenever the latter takes on Islamabad in Saarc and Beijing outside it. If India aims to pull out of Saarc to see it wither away, it could also send a wrong signal of irresponsibility to its smaller neighbours.

The EU's story has various aspects and angles. Let the Saarc first reach its position first. Then only we can think whether to go for an Indexit.

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