Pritam K. Rohila



Most South Asian nations are currently struggling with internal tensions, some more serious than others. But at the same time they are reaching out to their neighbors to find solutions to their problems.


Pakistan has decided to extend Most Favored Nation status to India, and is considering importing, among other things, much needed electricity, railway engines, and pharmaceutical from India. In view of its increasing trade with India, a dedicated cross-border trade gate is being opened at the Wagah border. Also Pakistan has allowed Afghanistan SAFTA import concessions, and has extended an export credit facility of US 200 million dollars to Sri Lanka through the State Bank of India.


India and Bangladesh have reached an agreement to tackle flow of criminals and drugs across their borders. Sri Lanka and India are discussing bilateral defense cooperation. Nepal is pleading with India for help in easing fuel shortage. Also it has proposed joint venture with Bangladesh to set up a 3,000 megawatt power plant in its territory to help resolve its power problems.


Bhutan is set to open two new land trade routes to Bangladesh through India, while India has exempted essential commodities to Bhutan from export ban.


Even Indian Administered Kashmir and Pakistan Administered Kashmir have recently elected a new president of Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Furthermore, there is a growing realization in India’s political circles that in spite of the Mumbai terror attacks, it cannot ignore Pakistan, and that it is in their national interest to help Pakistan in its struggles for political stability and prosperity.


Among Pakistani intelligentsia and policymakers too there is increasing awakening to the fact that now is the time to shed the burden of the troubled history of relations with India and to stop blaming India for its problems.


On the last Kashmir Solidarity Day, it was heartening to hear Pakistan Prime Minister to say, that the Kashmir issue can no longer be resolved through war. Instead he pleaded for reliance on “dialog, diplomacy, prudent policy and national consensus.” “We can move forward as good neighbors, who have a stake in each other’s future and who have the responsibility that both countries have to the region and within the region,” he said.


Thanks to the farsightedness and sagacity of the leaders and peoples of South Asia, it appears that the dream of the founders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is coming closer to realization. In their December 1985 Dhaka Declaration, at the time of SAARC’s foundation, the heads of the founding South Asian countries had envisioned it as “a tangible manifestation of their determination to cooperate regionally, to work together towards finding solutions towards their common problems in a spirit of friendship, trust and mutual understanding and to the creation of an order based on mutual respect, equity and shared benefit.”


If they continue to improve relations with neighbors across as well as within their own borders, 21st century is likely to be the South Asian Century. (Dr. Rohila is the Executive Director of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia ( and can be reached at


(Association For Communal Harmony In Asia (ACHA)

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