The eighteenth SAARC Summit concluded last week in Kathmandu could not really live up to its theme- Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity.
In a run-up to the Summit, there had been much talk about vital deals on road, railway and energy connectivity in the region. However, the agreements on the first proved illusion and the deal on third was also more than just a cosmetic measure.
The frosty relationship between India and Pakistan-the two giant SAARC member states- scuttled the substantial agreements on the regional connectivity.
In fact, the poor performance of the three-decade old SAARC has also much to do with the Indo-Pakistan enmity.
Connection through road and railway, increased trade and investment, easier visa regime and increased people-to-people interaction are simply mandatory for deeper integration amongst the member states.
Without these three important elements, it will be preposterous to talk about the growth and prosperity of the entire region.
Poor connectivity and the tariff and non-tariff barriers have long been neutering the expansion of bilateral and multilateral economic ties in the Subcontinent.
For instance, the SAARC nations only do 6 percent of their total trade with each other which is far lower compared to other regional blocs.
As far as the cases of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) go, such figure stands at 37 percent and 70 percent respectively.
In this light, the failure of the recent regional jamboree to come together on economic topics of common interest is frustrating.
On the other side, there was not an iota of improvement in the negative vibes between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Their handshake during the Summit was reassuringly perfunctory. Moreover, it was also a desperate attempt to put a gloss over their myopia inflicting the SAARC for long.
The frequent trading of fire between the Indian and Pakistani militaries on the border is not a nebulous fact. So, the reluctance of Modi and Sharif to bury their hatchets amounts to the continuation of threat to the regional stability and peace.The perpetual inefficiency and indolence of the SAARC suggests one thing very clearly. And this is simple: there can be no meaningful cooperation unless there is peace and stability in the region.