Saman Kelegama

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Transcript Saman Kelegama

Perspective of SAARC
after 25 Years
Saman Kelegama
Institute of Policy Studies of
Sri Lanka
SAARC Record: Not Impressive
SAARC has proved to be a slow
process vulnerable to regional
SAARC decisions are clouded by
regional politics (e.g., Pakistan not
offering MFN status to India)
SAARC decisions are not properly
Majority of the South Asian people is
yet to feel the impact of SAARC
Member Level Problems
Nation state is evolving in the region
thus an extra-national entity seems
something to be reluctantly
Suspicion: Fear of Indian domination
prevails among the smaller nations.
Smaller nations ganging up against
India is also a fear
No binding commitments, thus
commitments are most often not
Member Level Problems
“trust deficit” a major problem
Lack of commitment for regional
cooperation – enthusiasm fades
away after a SAARC Summit
Little involvement of the business
and academia in the SAARC process
SAARC declarations: “ an exercise in
competitive deception” (Muchkund
Problems of SAARC
Charter – State centric cooperation
SAARC has become a Foreign
Ministry project with little interaction
with other government agencies
SAARC Secretariat has limited
powers to drive the organization in
between Summits
SAARC Organization Structure
Inter-governmental decision making
structure has not kept up with global
trends and South Asian demands
Heavily bureaucratic with many layers of
decision making – IGG, IGEG, CEA, etc. –
decision making takes time
SAARC institutions not accountable –
Documentation Centre, Food Reserve,
Meteorological Centre, etc.
There is no accountability
Outcome of 25 Years Provides
1985-1995 – 10 years of cooperation on noneconomic issues did not lead to much confidence
1995-2005 – 10 years of SAPTA did not make a
significant breakthrough, in fact, SAPTA repeated
all the shortcomings seen in the Bangkok
Post 2005 SAFTA characterized by a large
‘negative list’ (20% of tariff lines) and 53% of
intraregional imports outside SAFTA
Investment-trade nexus not properly functioning
due to lack of investment liberalization –
efficiency seeking industrial restructuring in the
region is at a low level -- seen by low intraindustry trade
Bilateral and subregional arrangements have
complicated the situation for SAFTA (ASEAN did
not experience such a problem before moving to
Deeper integration framework not in place–
energy and transport integration at an
elementary stage – connectivity poor
There are some Achievements
SAARC has activated a debate on regional
cooperation in the second track
South Asian or SAARC associations have come
into operation
Activated a Social Charter, Anti-Terrorism
Charter, etc.
India has since of late become an active
participant: (a) 1. January 2008 – duty free
market access to SAARC LDCs, (b) large
contribution to SAARC Development Fund, etc
Parallel Tracks to SAARC
Tracks: Civil society, private sector, academia –
ahead of member governments in regional
These tracks (initiatives) have created a
fraternity of South Asian academics,
businesspersons, professionals, and others. They
meet regularly even when Track I activities are
Journals, Magazines (e.g.,HIMAL) – give an
extra-national perspective of the region to keep
people informed of regional developments
Communication between Track II and Track I is
informal, ad hoc, and personalized
What Can be Done ?
Restructure the SAARC Organization
structure, Charter, Secretariat ? Difficult
Improve Track II and Track I interactions
– can do -- based on the ASEAN Model –
officials take part in Track II dialogues in
non-official capacity, officials are released
on sabbatical leave to work in Track II
Bring the economic agenda to the
Economic gains overcoming
SA: economics cannot dominate over
political factors ?
In ASEAN economic gains managed to
push political differences aside at crucial
In the India-Sri Lanka Bilateral FTA too
the economic gains for SL overcame
political problems
SAARC needs to reap some economic
gains -- this will assist it to move forward
to deepen economic integration
Vision of GEP – not impossible
GEP vision of a SAARC Economic
Union is still possible
Thank you