Regional Trade: An Essential for Existence of SAARC
International Corporations have a great experience and expertise of spoiling the regional ethnic culture of countries and violation of basic rights of the people. Trade has been an easy tool for effective control on the regional society. It was trade that paved way for British rule in Indian subcontinent in for more than 150yrs. Setting up of East India Company, promoted invasion of foreign powers to the economy. The company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its own private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions.
South Asia is densely populated with people belonging to common civilizations. The binding thread of epistemology is strong between the states. Despite being so closely related with each other trade between these countries is negligible. The sub continent has only around 5% trade amongst each other. The question that arises is where the countries trade if not between each other. Why have we been liberal towards adoption of foreign powers? Why have we been one of the largest consumerist markets to businesses of foreign enterprises? Today India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are seen as legitimate and soft targets for any foreign alien goods. Inclinations of the mass towards the foreign goods are quite evident. The international corporations have easily been able to create the desire for desire of those goods produced by them. It has become tough for people to imagine a life without these products of foreign market goods.
The problem is not why we allow international goods to enter the market; the problem arises when we allow our systems to be governed by them and show our inefficiency and ineffectiveness to their policies and become their sub ordinates. We either hand over the economy of our countries to them or they end up taking away all the controls of the nation.
Various examples of international corporations violating basic rights are prevalent in the region. Over the years they have exploited of resources and promoted sufferings of people in the region. While the people engaged in hazardous incidents are moving freely, children in Bhopal, even today are born with diseases. During the late 19th Century, when foreign powers had started to come to India, the Indian farmers were initially convinced to sell their produce to the British men, but gradually they were forced to hand over all their hardship to them. Despite of being engaged in production, the whole day, all they got was an empty stomach to sleep with.
South Asia in itself is a knowledge hub. It is a home to one of the oldest civilizations that the world has ever seen. It was South Asia that produced the best scholars, poets and researchers and gifted them to other countries to empower and enrich their name instead of ours. There is no other sub continent so closely related with each other, having same history and faced same hardships. It was together that we fought for independence. It was together that we were able to swipe away militants from each others’ areas. Then, what is it that keeps up away from trading and enhancing economies of our region than becoming a market for external powers.
Over the years there has been an utmost need for growth in trade between the regional countries. South Asia is one among those continents that have produced one of the best leaders in the world. Popular think tanks that are acknowledged worldwide. Sharing a common history, this region is home to thousands of leaders. Leaders with the same pragmatism approach towards western ideas. Driven by the west, liberalization was introduced in the country, at times; liberalization has proved to ruin the liberalism of the people.
The need to allow industries, trade and commerce to be set up between ourselves is growing by each day. Today we oppose Chinese products, when we have already paved a way for their existence in our country. Lately did we realize that buying the Chinese products enhance their economy not ours. While there continues to be unrest amongst ourselves, foreign companies are easily earning millions.
The region has not yet stopped fretting from members themselves. The deep rooted suspicions and distrust among South Asian countries continue to influence the life of people; no change is felt in the existing conflicts among these countries. These conflicts range from strategic and boundary disputes, water-resource management and migration issues to trade and transit problems. The protracted Indo-Pak feud has topped all these other. The countries in South Asia has history existing in a state of mutual suspicion since India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947. Apart from the enduring Kashmir dispute between two, India also has had long running disputes over water sharing, border problems, illegal immigrants and other issues with neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri-Lanka. Additionally, Bangladesh and Pakistan are still on loggerhead over the issue of 1971 civil was issues, including torture and genocide of Bengali people. Nepal and Bhutan had long wrangling on issues of refuge, and Nepal and India have issues of border and other issues to settle. These issues are sources of mutual suspicion with each other.
Speaking practically, South Asians have been fooled by external countries since decades. It is this foolishness of us that allows so much of aggression between ourselves. It is this aggression amongst us and faith on other countries which makes the sub continent the weakest among all. Countries like Russia, America and China, control more than half of the market of this region. While India and Pakistan continue to fight, China is easily making alliance with Pakistan. The initiative of China to bring OBOR will allow Chinese products to easily enter into Pakistan and shall completely destroy the production of domestic goods in Pakistan. What India now realizes, Pakistan shall also have to realize the same in future.
China is steadily made use of the unhealthy ties between India and its neighbors. With talks of setting up of the Kerung (China) – Birgunj (Nepal) dry port and Sigatse (Nepal) – Kerung (China) Railway line being into operation soon, China easily shall take over the economy of this Himalayan Country which today highly depends on its southern neighbor for all essential. India would soon lose its market in Nepal.
India has been in recent times proposing the idea of creation of BIMSTEC. By this, India aims to isolate Pakistan on international level. With countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and India boycotting the SAARC Summit, we did not give a good example to the world. We failed to respect a platform which allows free flow of ideas and developmental goals for each other. The people in countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka, expect a lot from the two Nuclear powers to assist them in fulfilling their goals, and with failure to respect the common platform, we not only violate the Charter, but also play with the dreams and aspirations of the people.
The South Asian people’s hope of emerging as a closely-knitted community is not fulfilled; it has rather been shattered, and the people are betrayed by the politicians and bureaucrats. The growth of SAARC, as a platform to ‘connect people’ is prevented.
With abandoning ties and promoting negative trade between ourselves we are again paving way for external powers to reside in our countries. Trade is the only way which can again better the ties between us. Increased supply of goods and services would not only help the relations to turn better but would also help in achieving the prospects of SAARC. The countries may have differences, but the region should fairly understand that all of us have a common enemy of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of infrastructure. The region has already suffered years of colonial torture, it would not be pleased if attempts are made yet again to exploit our people and suffer years of economic ruling yet again.
 See, Syeda Sana Rahman
Author: Himanshu Kumar Singh, Student of B.Com LL.B from Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Siliguri.
Note: The above article has been published in Legal Desire International Journal on Law (ISSN: 2347-3525) Jan 2018 Edition
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