India- Pakistan to meet in SAARC Virtual meeting On September 24, 2020

External Affairs Minister (EAM) of India and Pakistan Foreign Minister (PFM) are expected to meet at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting via videoconference on September 24. The announcement has been made days after India-Pakistan tensions that had spilled into a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Key Facts

  • All member countries have confirmed to attend the meeting.
  • Meeting will be chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal.
  • India will attend the meeting despite the conflict at SCO virtual meeting of National Security Advisors.

What was the conflict at SCO meeting?

  • In the meeting, Pakistan’s Special Advisor on National Security had showed a map of Pakistan that claimed Indian territory as their territory.
  • India’s National Security Advisor alleged that it was violating the norms of the meeting that was chaired by Russia.
  • After consultation, India left the meeting in protest.

About SAARC

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an intergovernmental organization. It is also designated as the geopolitical union of states in South Asia region. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, The Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The grouping was founded on 8th December 1985 at Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Significance of SAARC

The SAARC is a significant grouping because it seeks to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia. It can strengthen collective self-reliance, promote mutual assistance and active collaboration in various fields by cooperating with the international and other regional organisations.

Why SAARC is dysfunctional?

  • Pakistan always vetoed the major initiatives that the grouping decides to work upon. For instance, Pakistan did not agree on the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement proposed at Kathmandu summit, 2014.
  • Bilateral issues cannot be discussed in SAARC but India-Pakistan often end up conflicting over the bilateral issues.
  • India alleges Pakistan that it uses terror as an instrument of foreign policy. This has made SAARC business dysfunctional.
  • Disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the Durand line is another reason.
  • India lacks trust on Pakistan in the aftermath of URI terror attack on the Indian security forces in 2016.
  • Further, other forums like Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is gaining the momentum.

 Revival of SAARC

  • Creation of SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund has made the SAARC functional up to some extent
  • The SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting has been scheduled on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. This would also help in reviving the grouping.

COVID-19 Emergency Fund

This was proposed by the Prime Minister of India. He also proposed for the formation of a Rapid Response Team of doctors, specialists, testing equipment and attendant infrastructure so as to combat Covid-19. The emergency fund is based on a voluntary contribution from all SAARC members. India extended $10 million as a contribution to the fund. This fund can be used to meet the cost of immediate actions by any member county. The Foreign Secretaries and Embassies of the member countries would be coordinating the fund.