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Regional Cooperation in South Asia is in Pakistan's Interest

© AP Photo / Thomas HartwellPrime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif
Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.03.2024
SAARC seems to be virtually dead, with its last summit taking place in Nepal in 2014. However, Shehbaz Sharif's return to the helm of affairs in Pakistan could reinvigorate the regional grouping. Sputnik India analyzes if that could be the case.
Shehbaz Sharif made a comeback as Prime Minister of Pakistan on Monday amid hope that he may forge closer ties with India to bolster the country's economy.
Among other things, Sharif junior would like to revive South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), South Asia's regional grouping which is seemingly in oblivion, having held no dialogue at all since 2014.

Why is SAARC in Oblivion?

In 2016, the SAARC summit was supposed to be hosted by Pakistan but was canceled following a terrorist attack in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir, in which at least 19 Indian soldiers died. Subsequently, New Delhi blamed Pakistan-sponsored anti-India militant groups for carrying the attack on Indian forces.
Since then, SAARC has been put into cold storage, and if there was any hope for it being resurrected, it vanished in 2019, when India and Pakistan severed diplomatic relations following the former's decision to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Yet, one must not forget that SAARC is the only organization that represents South Asia in its entirety, and allowing it to drift into oblivion could only increase friction in the sub-continent.

New Delhi in No Hurry to Revive South Asia’s Regional Body

Against this backdrop, Dr. Ajay Darshan Behera, who is a Professor at the Academy of International Studies at the New Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia university, stressed that "it was in Pakistan's interest to revive SAARC, but that was conditional on what India wanted”.
According to him, India will be in no hurry to revive SAARC.
"It will watch Pakistan's behavior, and until an environment free of terror is in place, it's very unlikely that India will give much importance to SAARC. It does not mean that India is not interested in regional cooperation. It will continue with the other forums for regional cooperation instead of SAARC," Behera told Sputnik India on Tuesday.
The academic's comments are in line with India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who recently downplayed the possibility of the reinvigoration of SAARC because of Pakistan's alleged use of cross-border terrorism against India.

Pakistan Military and Reconciliation With India – The Possibilities

Furthermore, Behera opined that the Pakistan Army, which reportedly propped up Shehbaz Sharif will be in no hurry to advise him for any reconciliation with India due to the impending Indian elections.
"They know that no serious engagement is possible till the next government takes its place. They will also wait to see who comes into power after the elections. However, some signaling is already in place to gauge the mood of the Indian political leadership," he concluded.
Men watch Pakistan's newly sworn-in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on a television, in Karachi on March 4, 2024. - Sputnik India, 1920, 04.03.2024
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What Does Shehbaz Sharif's Return as Pakistan Prime Minister Mean for India?
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