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EghtesadOnline: An Indian professor of the international relations believes that Iran’s full membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will benefit all member states of the regional group.

“There are important reasons and benefits in bringing Iran in SAARC as a full member,' Dr. Sitakanta Mishra of the faculty of International Relations, the School of Liberal Studies, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gujarat, said in an exclusive interview with IRNA here on the importance of Iran’s full membership in SAARC. 

He went on to say that first, Iran has sufficient stakes in the South Asian regional affairs as it shares about 800 kilometers of borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, reports IRNA.

'It has multiple linkages with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India since many centuries. Its formal induction into SAARC will help institutionalize the historical ties,” Mishra added. 

The expert said that secondly, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India naturally form a trade and security ‘complex'. 

'Iran’s formal inclusion in SAARC will foster better economic cooperation and energy trade under the banner of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA),' Mishra said. 

He said that the Chabahar port and the gas-pipeline project practically fits Iran into Southern Asian calculus for the betterment of the whole region. 

Emphasizing the need for expanding the SAARC’s geography by including new members in it, Dr. Mishra said, “This is rather a challenging opportunity to ponder over a reincarnation of SAARC. Possibly by broadening its geography and giving it a Southern Asia nomenclature. SAARC, in its current form, seems to be a hostage of the psychological configuration of the region confined to seven countries.”

“The terms South Asia believed to have been narrowly coined in the late 1950s with the emergence of US-led alliance that divided Asia into Southeast and West Asia. The name vindicating a peripheral vision mainly emanated from the Washington-centered worldview that simply overshadowed the entity of the Indian subcontinent. It does not include all the integral members of the region like Iran, China, Myanmar and, before 2007, Afghanistan,” the senior analyst of the world affairs said while rejecting the US-led alliance’s definition of the Asia in late 1950s.

Explaining the measure taken by SAARC to fight terrorism in the region, Dr. Mishra said, 'Recognizing the menace of terrorism and the urgency to curb it, the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was signed by the member states on 4th November 1987 which came into force on August 22, 1988 to cooperate among themselves to prevent and eliminate terrorism from the region.' 

He went on to say that a SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) was established in Colombo in 1995 with the objectives to collate, analyze and disseminate information on terrorist offenses, tactics, strategies and methods.

“Last month, during the second meeting of the High Level Group of Eminent Experts, measures to strengthen the SAARC Anti-Terrorism Mechanism were discussed and all members agreed to cooperate in capacity building on the related subjects,” Dr. Mishra added. 

Expressing disappointment over the failure of SAARC to combat terrorism effectively, the distinguished expert of the international relations said, “Except strongly condemning all forms of terrorist violence, the SAARC forum has not been able to take any concrete measure or achieved any substantial headway in realizing the objectives of the Convention. South Asia still struggles to arrive at a working definition of terrorism for the fact that one member’s terrorist is another member’s freedom fighter.

SAARC Iran-SAARC