ISLAMABAD – The leaders of the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation met last week in the Maldives for their 17th annual summit. Previous SAARC summits achieved little in the way of regional cooperation. If they are remembered at all, it is for the progress made in getting India and Pakistan to talk to each another. While this time was no different, there are growing signs of a thaw in relations.
Improvement in the India-Pakistan relationship – the main obstacle to greater economic cooperation in South Asia – has come whenever the two countries’ governments have agreed to work together to achieve a common good. That happened in 2004, when, after agreeing to initiate what they called a “composite dialogue” that would cover eight issues that had kept them apart for decades, India and Pakistan also agreed to work towards the creation of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA). Without such limited agreements, stasis in South Asia is the rule.