Pakistan is looking for a possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance, so that it can counter India’s hold on the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), diplomatic observers said. The idea was pitched by parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, during its five-day visit to Washington last week.
The Dawn quoted Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, saying in one of his interactions with the media, “A greater South Asia is already emerging. This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian republics.” Hussain described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the key economic route linking South Asia with Central Asia. He pointed out that the Gwadar port, would be the nearest warm water port, not only for China, but, also for the land-locked Central Asian states.
Hussain added that they want India to join this arrangement as well but Indians are unlikely to accept it as they are comfortable with the advantage that SAARC provides to them.
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Following Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Sept 18 terrorist attack in Uri, India had last month announced that it would not attend the regional group’s 19th summit, scheduled in Islamabad on Nov 15 and 16. Pakistan strongly denied the Indian allegations. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri lanka and Bhutan also joined India to boycott the summit and the boycott led to an indefinite postponement of the summit.
A senior diplomat while confirming reports that Pakistan is actively seeking a new regional arrangement said, “Apparently, the showdown forced Pakistan to conclude that in its present shape, SAARC will always be dominated by India. That’s why they are now talking about a greater South Asia.” According to another diplomat, Pakistan is hoping that this new arrangement will give it more room to manoeuvre when India tries to force a decision on it.