SAARC - South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by A.V., May 26, 2010.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    We hear the future belongs to BRIC nations SCO is looking beyond too in many areas particularly now that iran , pakistan and india is in its system of operations indirectly what does the future hold for SAARC with asean having taken the initiative and the vast differences within the SAARC nations where is it heading to ?

    is there is future for SAARC now or in the future?
    in what ways do you see SAARC taking the initiative ?
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    SAARC became a non starter once the two biggest nations in it could not find any common ground. Then we had the smaller nations think of india as a big monster that would gobble them up economically. There was always this trust deficiency. Somehow the smaller states could not see the potential to do business with a bigger india and kept an adverse view of india. SAARC could have been a success and had potential but for the failed vision of its leaders. The free trade agreement never came around. Pakistan never even gave india MFN as required by the WTO rules let alone SAARC.

    If we see other economic entities, we will see most member nations were equals. Be it the EU when it started or the Asean. SAARC never was a group of equals which made the member nations not see eye to eye and in all cases india being the bigger nation was always distrusted and also at the same time looked at as a big brother that had to help the younger siblings which cannot be the case all the time. Economic association has to have sound principles which never came around in SAARC.

    it is better to not waste time for india at least on SAARC and look to do business with individual countries by means of both investment and aid to win over those countries in the larger scheme of things.
     
  4. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2003/10/27/stories/2003102700230900.htm

    The future of the `BRIC' group — Brazil, Russia, India and China will come into their own
    S. Venkitaramanan

    A recent Goldman Sachs report has forecast that Brazil, India and China together with Russia (BRIC) will outstrip the current dominant members of the global economy within half a century. It will be heartwarming if the BRIC nations turn out to be affluent in the way the report forecasts, and particularly if they co-exist and flourish with the current occupants of the economic high ground.


    THE world has been seeing a refreshing reversal of roles. The developing countries are increasingly playing an important role in the global economy. Far from stories of gloom and doom about countries like China and India, we are hearing stories of their successes, their rising reserves, their technological and economic prowess, which are seen as a threat by the richer nations.

    Instead of stories that predict these countries being consigned to the scrap-heap, they are becoming objects of envy and attack. Now, China has done the rope-trick by its magnificent space mission.

    It is being advised that it should spend its resources better by directing them to repair its roads and waterways — advice that can also be proffered to the world's richest economies, such as the US, which have also many black holes to fill in their infrastructure.

    Now, the attention of the world's economic media has been temporarily transfixed by a report issued by Goldman Sachs, the well-known investment bankers, forecasting an even brighter future for the "deprived" nations of the world.

    In the recently published report, Goldman Sachs has forecast that Brazil, India and China together with Russia (a group called "BRIC"), will grow to outstrip the currently dominant members of the global economy, G-6, (US, Britain, France, Japan, Germany and Italy) within half a century.

    It estimates that BRIC will eventually overtake the economic output of G-6. China itself is likely to be bigger than any of the current members of G-6, a sobering thought for the triumphalists of Washington.

    A more interesting prediction is that many of the current members of the G-7 may be ineligible to attend the meetings of the world's largest economic powers.

    This is a considerable change from a situation in which these BRIC economies account for only one-eighth of the output of G-6. Its startling forecast is a result of the faster rate of growth of BRIC, combined with the slowing down of the currently richer nations.

    Obviously, we have to take the forecasts with a pinch of salt. We cannot rush to celebrate the coming of the BRIC. Many unforeseen factors can intervene. Wars and pestilence cannot be ruled out. Recurrence of an epidemic like SARS or AIDS can do great damage to the growth of countries. Russia can self-destruct by overexploitation of its resources and internal intrigues among the new elite.

    Further, economies like China can go overboard with their exuberance, overstraining their financial system. Above all, the scenario of richer countries tolerating the growth of poorer nations depends on the continuance of an open trading system in which the US and Europe accept the growing inroads of China's manufacturers (and India's software warriors). Protectionism is still a dangerous portent, which has to be avoided.

    It was entirely in the fitness of things that the alliance which the Law and Commerce Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, forged among the poorer countries, focussed on Brazil and China, which are now emerging as new power centres a la Goldman Sachs' forecast.

    The alliance is, however, cracking some of the poorer countries being tempted by offers of aid and bilateral trade openings by the US to break the Cancun accord. Ultimately, the poorer countries of the world have to find ways of suborning the intransigence of the affluent West in WTO matters.

    It is futile to try to obstruct the coming of a WTO accord by the economically weak combining against the currently strong. Such alliances can be easily breached by tempting offers of aid and trade.

    While Cancun was a brilliant beginning, it also exposes the weaknesses of the poorer half of the world. "Stoop to conquer" may be the right slogan to follow, given the power of the West to breach am alliance against a WTO accord.

    "Try to get the maximum advantage out of agreeing to WTO" may be a sensible policy option. But, that requires unravelling the many strands of policy that have been painstakingly woven together into our stand at Cancun. But, the reality is that some sort of give-and-take is needed if the US is not to retreat into a protectionist shell.

    The Goldman Sachs' forecast obviously assumes that BRIC still steer clear of political implosions and economic indiscretions. Currently, the trend of India's stock markets seems to be a vote cast in favour of India reaching higher rate of growth. But stock markets have not been reliable indicators of the trend of economic fundamentals.

    India's rulers need to take a more realistic view of the genuine strengths and weaknesses of the economy and nurse the prevailing mood of optimism with strong pro-growth actions. The weather-gods seem to be favourable and the economy stems set to reach the higher trend rates of growth.

    India seems poised to return to the high rate of growth it saw in the 1980s and the mid-1990s. Investment flows into the economy — both domestic and forex — should be sustained.

    One of the highest rates of growth of the Indian economy took place in the late 1980s, when public investment was high and credit flows robust. Public investment in infrastructure has a tendency to "grow" manufacturing, especially in steel, cement and capital goods. Public investment in infrastructure does not "crowd out" but "crowds in" private investment. This is already happening, thanks to Government's initiatives in road building and railways. This effort needs to be sustained.

    While all efforts should be made to raise tax revenues, investment outlays in the public sector should not get derailed by fiscal imbalance. The best cure for fiscal imbalance may be the speeding up of the economy, which will itself "grow" tax revenues.

    A shortsighted view of fiscal consolidation and credit flows may prove to be the poison pill for the economy. Given the good monsoon and comfortable forex resources, the economy should be able to avoid inflationary shocks by imports of essential goods, including food-grains and edible oil, if need be.

    On no account should we risk choking off the embryonic signs of resurgence of growth of the economy by contra-cyclical policies, be they monetary or fiscal. If Goldman Sachs is right, BRIC seems all set to be the G-4 of the future. But the ways of the global economy are difficult to predict, even in the short run. Predictions over fifty years are more difficult. Given all their limitations, the Goldman Sachs' forecasts are a reminder of how changeable the global economic scene can be.

    The dominant powers of today may well turn out to be the supplicants of the world 50 years from now. Whether or not the forecasts turn out to be true, they serve to remind us that the future can be very different from the present and holds both risks and rewards.

    Whether BRIC will reign or turn to ruin is very much in its own hands. Let us remember that at the turn of the twentieth century, the Argentine economy was almost as large as America's and look at how it declined over the century.

    Dramatic reversals are quite on the cards in the global economy. Much will depend on how policy and economic circumstances will work. Proper governance and appropriate economic management hold the key to the brave new world of BRIC.

    Lest we forget, we should recall the earlier optimistic forecasts. Earlier stock market booms had led inevitably to Japan's bitter experience after the stock market boom of the 1980s. This is still fresh in our memory.

    So too, the recent dotcom boom and the irrational exuberance, that Greenspan warned against, left the US in the grip of a deflationary trend. The economies of East Asia and the Pacific had also their brief encounter with dreams of glory in the 1990s.

    The growth of nations and economies is often subject to unexpected implosions, often least expected and with varying degrees of intensity. Forecasts are only linear extrapolations of economic trends of the present. They can go wrong.

    The path of wisdom is not to believe blindly in prophecies, either of boom or doom, but beware of dangers, which exist in the unpredictability of human behaviour. Growth is, ultimately, a game of patience, of economies trying to beat the odds which Nature places in their path.

    Let us hope that the 21st Century will truly be an age in which nations of the BRIC group come into their own, albeit not at the expense of the current occupants of the high ground in the global economy. There is scope for both groups to co-exist and flourish, given the extent of global deprivation and leeway to make up in many areas of the world.

    It will be truly heartwarming if the nations that belong to the BRIC group turn out to be affluent in the manner in which the forecast delineates. May the Goldman Sachs report be a harbinger of a golden age to come in the world economy
     
  5. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    SAARC- a symbolic forum with little regional relevance

    By Satarupa Bhattachariya
    Dominated by media attention on bilateral politics between India and Pakistan which “technically” was a sideline issue, the 16th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) concluded in Thimphu last week, managing somehow to emerge with only one potentially important policy focus for the region – a document on environment.

    Grappling with the big fear of climate change that is making member states such as the Maldives most vulnerable, Foreign Ministers of the region signed a paper titled Convention on Cooperation on Environment. The Maldives is scheduled to host next year’s conference.


    Sri Lankan President greets the Indian Prime Minister at the recently held SAARC summit
    According to officials in Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, discussions were held towards balancing economic development with concerns for the environment. Food and energy security – topics that make great seminar sound bites – were also touched upon by delegates in the Bhutanese capital. Consultations were held to help underdeveloped landlocked countries such as Nepal figure out models of better utilizing existing energy resources. A separate agreement on trade in services was also signed so as to enhance cooperation on the regional economy.

    Analysts however say that SAARC is defunct as it is neither an economic bloc nor a grouping for geopolitics. Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs G L Peiris does not seem to share this perception though. “SAARC is an exceedingly useful forum for exchange of ideas, views among leaders of member states,” Peiris told the Sunday Times on Friday after he arrived in Colombo from Thimphu.

    According to Peiris, the opportunity for heads of governments to meet one another in a relaxed environment should not be underestimated. During a bilateral session, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have told Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the modalities he was working on in finding a political solution for this country’s Tamil community.

    During his opening remarks at the conference in Thimphu on April 28, President Rajapaksa told delegates: “We should hold on to our sovereign right to decide on what is best for them. We must strive to avoid externally induced rigid solutions. We must rather rally behind home-grown and intra-regionally evolved measures. Towards this end, we should now endeavour to strengthen the mechanisms to speak with one voice on issues of common concern for our region in the international fora, in particular at the United Nations.”

    President Rajapaksa told the conference that SAARC ought to be made people-centric, suggesting that a conclave for young Parliamentarians from the SAARC countries also be held. His son and Sri Lanka’s youngest MP from Hambantota, Namal Rajapaksa had accompanied President Rajapaksa to the Thimphu summit. According to Peiris, this suggestion was well received by member states. “The younger MPs could learn from the more experienced ones,” he added.

    The issue of terrorism came up for discussion in a separate bilateral meeting between President Rajapaksa and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. During their exclusive meeting, Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Y R Gilani – who were staying in neighbouring cottages in the SAARC village – appeared to have only managed to break the silence over bilateral dialogue, stalled since July 2009 when the two had met in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

    Even as the multilateral forum of SAARC still exists with member nations said to be cooperating on a range of areas related to agriculture, economy, poverty alleviation, science and technology, there seems to be a lack of cohesiveness which becomes obvious with every passing conference. “Changes cannot come overnight. There should not be unrealistic expectations from SAARC. A more pragmatic approach must be taken in understanding what it could do,” Peiris said.

    But there are other groups in the region that have been cited by experts as more effective alternatives to SAARC. The Bay of Bengal Imitative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), originally known by the acronym BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand -Economic Cooperation), is often seen as a viable link between South Asia and South-East Asia.

    BIST-EC was formed in 1997, 12 years after SAARC was established. Bhutan and Mayanmar joined in subsequent years making the forum almost a buffer zone between the more effective economic group Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and SAARC itself.

    Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) have more recently consolidated themselves in a group of four to enhance their economies and more importantly to play larger roles in geopolitics. With more than a quarter of Earth’s land area in their domain and 40 per cent of the world population and with a combined economic strength of $15.435 trillion, BRIC is looking to become an alternative to G-8 some day.
    SAARC has become a symbolic forum with little regional relevance. This realization becomes stronger with every passing summit.
     
  6. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) is having its 16th summit meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, which started on Wednesday. Apart from the fact that Bhutan will be hosting its first Saarc summit, there is hardly anything that inspires confidence in this largely moribund organization that is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding.

    Covering at least 1.5 billion people across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives and Afghanistan, Saarc is one of the largest regional organizations in the world. But its achievements so far have been so minimal that even its constituents have become lackadaisical in their attitudes towards it. The state of regional cooperation in South Asia can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reached Bhutan via Nepal, using Chinese territory in Tibet rather than the straightforward route through India.

    Bhutan has chosen climate change as the theme of the summit, and the eight-nation grouping is likely to deliver a Silver Jubilee declaration entitled “Towards a Green and Happy South Asia”. The focus, however, is likely to be on the agreement on trade in services to be signed during the summit. Intra-regional trade in South Asia remains far below potential despite the member states signing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement that came into force in 2006.

    For long, the dominant narrative of Saarc has been how the India-Pakistan rivalry hampers its evolution into anything of significance. That is now rapidly losing its salience with China’s growing dominance of the South Asian landscape. China entered Saarc as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states. India could do little about it and so acquiesced. Now, much to India’s consternation, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are supporting China’s full membership in Saarc.

    China’s rising profile in South Asia is no news. What is astonishing is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi is ceding strategic space to Beijing in the subcontinent. Even as China is becoming the largest trade partner of most states in South Asia, including India, New Delhi is busy repeating the old mantra of South Asia being India’s exclusive sphere of influence. Of course, no one even takes note of it anymore.

    Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China is well known, but the reach of China in other South Asian states has been extraordinary. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka view India as more interested in creating barriers against their exports than in spurring regional economic integration. India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader. Instead of India emerging as facilitator of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, it is China’s developmental assistance that’s having a larger impact.

    India’s attempts to keep China out of the subcontinent have clearly not worked, and it’s time to re-evaluate its South Asia policy. China’s strategy towards South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region. This strategy of using proxies started with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It is entering markets in South Asia more aggressively through both trade and investment, improving linkages with South Asian states through treaties and bilateral cooperation. Following this up by building a ring of road and port connections in India’s neighbourhood and deepening military engagements with states on India’s periphery, China has firmly entrenched itself in India’s backyard.

    This quiet assertion of China has allowed various smaller countries of South Asia to play China off against India. Most states in the region now use the China card to balance against the predominance of India. Forced to exist between their two giant neighbours, the smaller states have responded with a careful balancing act.

    India’s structural dominance in South Asia makes it a natural target of resentment among its smaller neighbours. Yet, there is no hope for regional economic cooperation in the absence of Indian leadership. The failure of India in countering China’s rise has made it even more unlikely that such cooperation will evolve productively. As the two regional giants compete with each other in the near future, they will be more focused on their relative gains vis-à-vis each other than in the absolute gain that regional cooperation can bestow.

    Liberals in South Asia have long taken their inspiration from the extraordinary developments in the European Union (EU), arguing that South Asia can also go down a similar path of regional economic and political cooperation. However, that’s a fundamentally flawed comparison. The states in Western Europe could arrive at the EU only after resolving their persistent security dilemmas. And the US security umbrella continues to ensure that European political rivalries do not raise their ugly heads again. In South Asia, the security dynamics between a large India and its smaller neighbours ensures that the road to economic and political cooperation will be a bumpy one. And after theemergence of China, that road will be an even more difficult one to traverse.
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    BRIC to expand multipolar world with addition of Turkey



    As the US fights with Brazil over Iran, the emerging powers of the BRIC group may be embracing Turkey.


    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticized Brazil's involvement in diplomatic negotiations with Iran and Turkey, stating that the United States and Brazil have serious differences concerning Iran's nuclear program.

    This follows the escalating debate over Iran’s nuclear program and the recent Brazil-brokered Iran-Turkey uranium fuel swap deal. This deal is nearly identical to previous proposals put forward by the US and other Western states. The deal is seen by many in the international community as a confidence-building measure moving forward with Iran and its nuclear agenda.

    On April 20, US President Barack Obama sent a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva embracing Brazil’s efforts to seek a deal between Turkey and Iran. However, almost immediately after the deal was reached the Obama administration began to push for new sanctions against Iran.

    “Obama not only betrayed himself, but he stepped on the back of two of his closest allies, Brazil and Turkey,” said Pepe Escobar, a journalist in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    While the Obama administration was focused on another round of sanctions against Iran, Brazil and Turkey worked successfully to secure a non-confrontation diplomatic solution.

    “Obviously for the Washington elites, they are not happy to see two middle-ranking powers who pose as honest brokers in the Middle East and achieve results. This is what we mean by a new multi-polar world where diplomacy rules and not confrontation,” said Escobar.

    The US is dangerously close to losing credibility, said Escobar. Arguing that when the United States attempts to pass a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, Brazil, Turkey Russia and China will rebuke them.

    “Leave us some time, let’s see if Iran fulfills the obligations of the Tehran declaration. This means a few months at least and then if Iran breaks the rules that they are accepting than we might consider talking about sanctions again,” said Escobar.

    Offering a deal that was widely accepted as the way forward, closing it and then immediately calling for sanctions is not the right way forward.

    “This is not diplomacy. This is intimidation,” said Escobar.

    The US is snubbing the world’s regional powers, not just Brazil by pressing them to follow the US directly.

    “The new counter-power to American unilateral foreign policy is the G20 and the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. And soon they are going to be BRICT because yesterday [Turkish Prime Mininster Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Lulu were discussing in Brazilian that Turkey soon is going to be the fifth member of the BRIC countries,” said Escobar.
     
  8. AkhandBharat

    AkhandBharat Regular Member

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    BRIC is a military bloc now? India will never choose Turkey over Israel to join BRIC.
     
  9. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    If turkey joins BRIC it will not be BRIC . I am sure India will be only country not very happy with inclusion of Turkey. Rest 3 will not have any problem.
    Regarding SAARC . it will be irrelevant till two biggest members forget their political difference and start working together Economically at least. I do not see any changes in pakistan's attitude. I don't know how their economy runs. may be by grants and free petro dollars keep them afloat.
     
  10. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    We managed to oust Pakistan from almost every important association other than UNO, WTO and OIC. I think a final effort must be taken to chuck them out of SAARC as well so that it becomes a powerful association not just for South Asia but also ASEAN countries to conduct and expand regional economy. Besides, Pakistanis share have a complex that they are descendants of "fair and handsome Iranians & Turks" and "not from poor, skinny, black Indians". So why include them in SOUTH ASIAN forum?
     
  11. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    don't forget almost every major member of SAARC is China's neighbor too. even BD will be connected by rail/road to China via Burma. China shall enter into FTA with individual countries like BD or SL or NP regardless of that 'defunct' SAARC. In addition to infrastructure projects, China for example makes in textile/apparell ind. in BD
     
  12. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    ^^^ Good luck with that. Economic progress is the right of every country. You can have trade agreements with all of our neighbours as we can have with yours. Trade only increases prosperity and harmony. I was talking about putting probation on Pakistan for any such agreement simply because it is too unsafe to conduct any trade with them and Chinese of all the people should know it since in China has suffered more engineer and workers abduction in Pakistan by terrorists than Indians have in Afghanistan. In such an environment, how can either you or we trade?

    Nepal, Bangladesh are fine, through a rail connection to Bangladesh still requires our permission.
     
  13. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

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    CHINA MAY FORM SOME OTHER FORM(in future) LIKE saarc in sub-continent region to improve/enlarge its status in sub-continent region and to attrack many of saarc nations more towards itself to isolate India.
     
  14. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Business Line:India, Bangladesh to ready contours of SAARC electricity market

    Business Line:India, Bangladesh to ready contours of SAARC electricity market


    New Delhi, Jan.26:

    [​IMG]

    India and Bangladesh have been entrusted with the task of giving a final shape to the proposed South-Asia electricity grid.

    Participation in the SAARC Market for Electricity (SAME) — envisaging electricity trading across member states — is likely to happen on the electricity market windows that are already in place in India. The windows, including the two operational power exchanges here, as well as through short-term and long-term contracts, can be expanded to allow participants from the other South Asian countries to come on board for cross-country exchanges, according to the action plan decided on by a SAARC Expert Group on Electricity meeting last week.

    The participation in the market, as is being envisaged, will be on a voluntary basis, unlike compulsory pooling of power as required in similar platforms operating in other parts of the world.

    Lead role for India

    According to officials involved in the exercise, India has a lead role in preparing the concept papers on developing the framework for planning cross-border transmission links, including the methodology for implementing the cross-border transmission infrastructure. Also, India has been asked to ready a paper on the operation of stable and secure SAARC electricity grids, including coordinated scheduling and settlements proceeds for long-term and short-term cross-border electricity trade. Bangladesh is to prepare a note on the structures and the institutional mechanisms needed for regulatory issues on cross-border electricity trade. The papers are to be readied by July 2011.

    While a transmission link with Bhutan is already in place, there are plans to spruce up the existing line to enable up to 5,000 MW of electricity imports into India by 2020. In Nepal, Indian firms including the GMR Group and State-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam are setting up hydroelectric stations, while power trading major PTC India Ltd has signed pacts to wheel power from two other projects.

    With Sri Lanka, plans are already under way for setting up a $450-million undersea power transmission link. The 200-km submarine cable is likely to be set up with a capacity to wheel around 1,000 MW of electricity and State-owned Power Grid Corporation is slated to execute the project. In Bangladesh, state-owned power major NTPC Ltd has signed a preliminary pact to set up a 1,320 MW coal-based power plant subject to techno-economic viability, while a cross-border transmission link is also in the works.

    The ADB had earlier sponsored a SAARC Regional Energy Trade Study, which recommended an Energy Charter Treaty. Under this, SAARC members were required to open up their energy sectors for foreign investments and also comply with the WTO framework with regard to the duty structure on power equipment. These conditions were not acceptable to members, which led to the proposal getting a quiet burial.
     
  15. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    India should take the lead in setting up power stations as well. Be it hydro electric in nepal or gas fired in bangladesh as well. How far these countries will trust india with anything remains to be seen as these countries always feel india is going to suck them up. India should build and finance such projects and not let the chinese enter.
     
  16. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Afghanistan: Let’s try peacekeeping (under UN-SAARC)

    Afghanistan: Let’s try peacekeeping | Blog | DAWN.COM

    With the jirga over and Bonn II at the doorstep, the US appears to be taking firm steps to stay on in Afghanistan in some fashion after 2014. Doing so may not be all bad if the fighting stops and the US bank rolls reconstruction. This presupposes a ceasefire and talks with the Taliban. The ensuing peace, peacemaking and peace building entails interposition of ‘blue helmets’ between the two sides. Is peacekeeping the answer?

    What obtains now can pass as a classic case of ‘hurting stalemate’. This may not be a ‘mutually hurting’ one at the moment, since both the hyper-power and its asymmetric opponent have reserves yet. Nevertheless, the ‘surge’ having expended itself and the Taliban not having exhausted yet another empire, the situation exhibits a certain ‘ripeness’ for resolution.

    Irrespective of whether either of the two would view it this way, the people of Afghanistan deserve a try at peace and Pakistani people must be preserved from further effects of instability.

    The assassination of the government’s interlocutor suggests that talks have a potential. They need a catalyst. Peace studies theory suggests that if belligerents are unwilling to talk directly, as seems to be the case here, mediation can be tried. The UN has a special political mission, the UNAMA, in Afghanistan. Its good offices could be used to bring the two sides to the table.

    Talking while fighting has been tried elsewhere, but doing so could derail talks. As first step, a ceasefire needs working out in the pre-negotiation stage. The trust levels between the two sides, understandably low after 10 years of mutual demonisation and war, implies that a neutral force needs interpose and monitor. This could be by ‘blue berets’, but that would be to expose military observers to undue risk. Instead, ‘blue helmets’ in ‘robust’ peacekeeping are the answer.

    Coincidentally, the region boasts of the finest record in peacekeeping. Four countries of the region are represented in the top five UN troop contributing countries: Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal. At the recently concluded SAARC summit in Maldives, brave words were spoken in favour of peace. Can the states rise for action? Can the region contribute a joint peacekeeping force for saving a fellow SAARC state from further violence?

    Such a force could deploy under a UN flag. As a rough plan, the Pakistani contingents could perhaps locate in Pushtun areas, the Indian deployment could be in the more peaceful north, the Bangladeshis can deploy in between and Nepalis in areas of Hazara domination. Muslim peacekeepers from Turkey, Indonesia etc can deploy alongside as the Taliban had once bid for.

    As talks make headway with time, the South Asian profile of the mission can deepen. With India and Pakistan working together, as they have done on UN missions elsewhere brilliantly, the UN mission can graduate into a ‘hybrid’ UN-SAARC one having knock-on benefits for South Asian identity and integration.

    A preliminary agreement could be arrived at, confining US troops to their bases. Taliban coming over ground peaceably would require cantonments. With fighting over, negotiations could then proceed towards a comprehensive agreement. This would require the Taliban moderating itself, accommodativeness by the other ethnicities, promise of neutrality and assistance by regional states, US draw down and demilitarisation.

    This is an optimist’s future. However, the Taliban may prove obdurate; their al Qaeda allies would sabotage any deal; Islamists may prefer grinding the US down; the US may want an excuse to stay on for other reasons, such as Iran, China, Central Asian access; India could do without Pakistan at ease; Russia and China are not unhappy with the US predicament etc. For the SAARC idea to take off, its two protagonist states need to make up first. At best, the idea is premature. In short, a post 2014 civil war is inevitable.

    Between the hopeful and naysayer extremes is the alternative of continuing instability. This is perhaps ‘good enough’, the young in Afghanistan having known no other reality. An ANSF, ratcheted up with ISAF mentoring and Indian training, can take on a degraded Taliban. Yet, the expectation that instability can be managed can prove illusive. The future may conceal an India-Pakistan crisis; spread of instability in Pakistan; economic down turn affects; election-related self-centered US decisions; ‘black swan’ events etc. Outsourcing of the region’s future course to an external power amounts to abdication.

    India and Pakistan are happy with the current trajectory of their reengagement. Neither is entirely unhappy with respective strategic circumstance. Pakistan is with fingers crossed, waiting for the US call to broker negotiations with the Taliban. India is preparing for it to fail. Both seem to think, and perhaps rightly, that they can manage the aftermath. Destructive and obstructionist cold war gambits are so much easier to play. Networking instead could reveal policy incapacities, power limitations, intellectual vacuity and a moral deficit.

    In other words, peacekeeping is not going to happen. Not until people force their minders – governments and non-state actors – to swallow their ego and work constructively with the ‘other’ side. The idea is here, and so is the time.

    Ali Ahmed is a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
     
  17. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    MEGO (my eyes glaze over)
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    No.

    It would not be good to involve the neighbouring countries in Afghanistan.

    It will only add to the mess since each will pursue its own agenda.

    Those who are aware of how the UN Peacekeeping force operates would know the problems.

    SAARC does not have the locus standi nor the infrastructure to establish control.

    Further, why should there be Turkey involved?

    They are a NATO country.

    Why has Iran been left out?

    They are equally concerned and is Afghanistan's neighbour. Further, they are Shias and there is a sizeable number of Shias in Afghanistan.

    A harebrained scheme and wishful thinking.

    The US is not quitting as yet.

    They are merely downsizing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Afghanistan: what happens when we leave? - Telegraph

    Now the achievements

    But this is also prevalent

    What is the guarantee that this will not happen to any peacekeeping force?

    Therefore, the article is mere kiteflying.
     
  20. Eiffe

    Eiffe Regular Member

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    No need to send our troops there. The US NATO are not going anywhere for atleast 10 years from now. That time period is more than enough for us.
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The US will never agree to such a Muslim heavy peacekeeping force!
     

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