The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) came back to life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The SAARC countries conducted a video conferencing on 15th March 2020. During the conference Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced “SAARC Emergency Fund” and pledged to contribute US$ 10 million.
Despite the low rate of spread, the countries in this region has weak public healthcare system. This is the reason that most countries took precautionary measures and imposed lockdown to contain the spread of the virus but this is impacting the economy of the region.
India has taken charge in helping the other countries in the region to fight this pandemic. It is expected that SAARC might see a revival as regional integration among the economies of the region might aid in revival of the economies in the region.
Date: 07 May 2020
Time: 04:PM IST
This organization was dead since 2014 when the SAARC Summit was cancelled last. It again resurfaced after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the video conference on 13th March.
World Bank has predicted the region's GDP to be between 1.8% to 2.8. Till today 93,656 cases have been reported, and it's been rising in all the nations rapidly.
BIMSTEC has its own set of issues. Therefore, could not be a successful alternative to SAARC.
Pandemic is a challenge for the region. Therefore, there is a need to look beyond own national perspective.
Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal are heavily dependent on tourism. There major concern is therefore their tourism led economy. Health expertise and technical exchange can help the region.
Need to Explore Neighbouring markets.
Mr Khampa Tshering
The problem is not just the physical connection through road air and waterways but also the connection with people and culture.
COVID19 has awakened our hetero negligence, an outdated social-economic structure in the region.
There is a need to capitalise the available resources in the region.
SAARC needs greater collaboration and connection.
SAARC emergency fund was a great initiative for a small country like Bhutan.
Mr. Satyendra Tripathi
Post - COVID19 world will show a drift towards isolationism and protectionism.
New Economic Models would be inward looking.
PM Narendra Modi’s Panchamrit Doctrine would play a crucial role in linking SAARC nations.
Ms. Megha Gupta
Need to evolve SAARC into a technological hub.
Migration and Poverty are some of the issues common to all SAARC members.
Need to revive good initiatives like Youth Award for Innovation.
BIMSTEC and BBIN cannot serve the purpose of SAARC. Therefore, we need to retain it.
Mr. Gaurab Shumsher Thapa
SAARC's biggest problem is that it's more policy-oriented rather than action-oriented.
COVID19 has taught us that human security is one of the biggest challenges.
Managing supply chains would be another important challenge.
Concept of regionalism has re-emerged.
Integration of health care sector could help in the revival of SAARC.
Mr. Riaz A. Khokhar SAARC
Emergency Fund could be used to buy the vaccines.
Intra-regional supply chains would help achieve economic growth in post-COVID19 scenario.
There is huge mistrust among member countries and Pakistan could not be blamed alone.
Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers are another major challenge.
Strict visa regimes have led to reduced tourism. Increase in regional trade and facilitation of the flow of goods and services will create regional interdependence.
Ms. Ruwanthi Jayasekara
Despite health being one of the five areas of cooperation, it has not been part of the SAARC discussion most of the times.
SAARC was cooped up, confined, and under lockdown way before the whole world decided to go for a lockdown.
In order to revive SAARC, we need to revive the perspectives.
Trends towards a de-globalised world order.
SAARC Nations need to incentivize agriculture sector, prevent economic instability to avoid extremist ideas to emerge, promote traditional Ayurveda etc.
COVID19 is an opportunity to become more self-sufficient and better integrated.