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Integration of South Asia

Integration of South Asia

South Asian, which is the home of 1.7 billion people, has been branded as the fast growing region in the world in terms of economic, trade and development, but is also backward as compared to many other parts of the world. A forum in the shape of SAARC was established to enhance close cooperation among the countries in the region, but it has been rendered ineffective due to inherent hostilities between India and Pakistan. This region can be turned into a major economic zone if a process of reconciliation is started among SAARC member states and the people are prepared to forget the bitterness of the past hostilities.

It is unfortunate that instead of boosting trade within SAARC region, 95 percent trade of South Asian countriesis with Europe, North America and East Asia. The Europe is Europe because it trades most of the goods within the countries in the region. The hostility between France and Germany is the thing of the past and all the members of the European Community work in unison. Most of the trade in the ASEAN is within the member states, but the SAARC countries have failed to reap the benefits of mutual trade. As a result, the region is producing poorest of the poor and is still not ready to adopt realistic approach.

The reason is simple; the fault is not in states, but in their political leadership who generate their vote bank on the basis of hatred with neighbouring countries. Despite having the best minds and largest concentration of youth, its future is bleak as threat of imminent nuclear war could not be defused. The world powers take benefits of the situation and exploit our merits to their maximum satisfaction. The South Asia needs to create soft borders, enhance greater integration andgive incentives for regional value chains to turn itselfinto an economic powerhouse. Without any doubt, the local trade can be increased from the current $28 billion to $100 billion in a few years.

The Pakistan China economic corridor is the best idea to increase integration within the countries in the region. A network of economic corridors between Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal will reduce costof transportation which iscurrently 85 percent more than it is in East Asian region. A close cooperation between customs departments to avoid tedious inspections,trade and transit agreements between the SAARC member states and relaxation of visa barriers will definitely ensure prosperity in the whole region. A Motor Vehicles Agreementbetween Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal is good omen to pave the way for a seamless movement of road traffic, but excluding Pakistan will render the agreement a futile exercise.