India signs regional pacts by leaving out Pakistan | Current Affairs, Current Affairs 2017

India signs regional pacts by leaving out Pakistan

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Indian PM Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

With Pakistan being a reluctant member in the Saarc regional forum, the Modi government is entering into a series of agreements to foster greater integration of the region by leaving out its troublesome north-western neighbour.
Of late, India has signed a number of critical agreements on roads, ports, power and education with Saarc member countries except Pakistan to forge an integrated approach to development.
According to top official, “It has been a Pakistan-obsessed regional and foreign policies for long and time has come to move away with out-of-box thinking.”
The plans to forge greater cooperation minus Pakistan have strategic intent as well, says the sources.
Citing the signing of the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) corridor agreement in the Bhutanese capital Thimpu on June 15 is a case in point, they say this road transport pact is a shot in the arm for Delhi’s regional plan.
A similar pact would be signed with Afghanistan in the coming months. Further, the India-Myanmar-Thailand road connectivity would be completed by year-end and would be integrated with the BBIN corridor, sources said.
This sub-regional connectivity would be a major achievement for India’s ‘Act East Policy’, said an official.
It may be noted that Pakistan had refused to sign a Saarc agreement on motor vehicle and rail connectivity at Kathmandu summit in November 2014.
The eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (Saarc) founded in 1985 remains one of the least integrated groupings in the world.
Less than 5% of the region’s global trade is taking place among Saarc member countries and also, less than 10% of the region’s commerce is conducted in the Saarc Free Trade Area.
India has been encouraged by response from neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal who are finding the sub-regional framework more helpful than facing the domestic opposition to signing India dominated bilateral agreements.
At present, India is trying to finalise a tripartite transit agreement to allow Indian goods to enter Iran through Chabahar port on the country’s south-eastern coast bordering Afghanistan. Goods will be moved through road and rail to Afghanistan as well as Central Asia.
Pakistan is also not keen on a dedicated Saarc satellite though it attended a meeting for such a plan on Monday. But officials said the project would boost telemedicine and communication in the region and would meet the 2016 deadline.
New Delhi may stay away from a Saarc gathering of transport secretaries in July “unless Pakistan spells out what it exactly wants from the meet.”
“When PM Modi was in Bangladesh, he said India would contribute in a major way to Dhaka’s plans of meeting 24,000MW power demands in 2021,” a source said.
India could allow countries such as Bhutan to route power to Bangladesh through India.
But Pakistan, the second largest Saarc country after India, can hold back new initiatives of the grouping as the forum works with consensus.
India will need Pakistan’s help for Afghanistan road plan. “As things are moving quite well on the eastern front, we can hope things will fall in place on the western front too,” noted a top official.

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