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Japan moves closer to SAARC

By Muhammad

Kathmandu, 10 August: South Asia is an important region for world powers due to its geo-strategic and geo-economics location. It consists of seven countries, and has two important nuclear countries; Pakistan and India. The regional countries have formed the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation SAARC. Japan also enjoys good relations with these member countries.

The concept of the association was initiated by the then, President of Bangladesh, Zia-ur-Rehman in 1980. However, the first summit meeting of South Asian countries was held in 1985. Thus, SAARC came into existence. In 2007, Afghanistan was admitted as a member in the organization, extending its jurisdiction to West Asia.

The charter of the organization calls for improving mutual trust, promoting cooperation in the fields of socio-economics, culture and technology etc. Furthermore to strengthen South Asian cooperation on international forums in said areas. The charter excluded political issues from the domain of the organisation, for a number of imperative reasons.

Firstly, the main member countries of the regional cooperation have terrotiroal disputes. These have caused tensions in the region. Consequently, the region has resolved to come out from the economic and political deterioration that envelops them all.

Secondly, political tension between the countries also created hurdles in terms of economic development and prosperity of the region. Thus, the per capita income could not improve considerably. It has also historically hampered economic cooperation in the region.

Lastly, the regional countries were in search of such a platform which might be non- political. They could discuss cooperation in the areas of mutual interest other than political. The association has been working successfully since 1985 due to non-political character.

Japan enjoys bilateral and multilateral relations with all the member countries of SAARC and subsequently joined the organisation due to it certain interests.

Firstly, Japan provides assistance to important regional countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Secondly, SAARC is a prime economic forum for Japanese goods. Japan looks at it as a productive economic forum for its goods. Thirdly, Japan has had positive economic relations with the region since the era of British colonisation. Furthermore, according to one report more than a hundred Japanese companies have made investments in different sectors within SAARC countries. These companies have earned a lot through foreign exchange with Japan which has played a momentous role in Japan’s status as the world’s third largest economy.

Moreover SAARC has the potential to emerge as one of the strongest economic forums, parallel with the European Union, due to the population, emerging middle class and expanding economy of its member countries, which would be mutually beneficial for the existing SAARC members and Japan, in the future. The location of the South Asian region also carries importance, and Japan’s presence in the association may further secure the interests of the region. Moreover while the United States, Russia and China dominate the global political, economic, strategic environment. They are also observer members of SAARC — despite not having participatory powers their observation increases the influence of the association. Japan already enjoys bilateral relations with all these countries. Their presence in the forum and working together may further promote Japan’s bilateral and multilateral relations with these countries. Japan looks at SAARC as a source of stability, development and peace in the region. Lastly, China has initiated CPEC. It appears that Russia and China possess similar opinions on the corridor. Maybe Japan wants to join CPEC as well. Simultaneously, it wants to secure its interests in the region of South Asia and SAARC in the CPEC scenario. Japan and the U.S are allies under Treaty 1952. In this background, presence of the U.S in the association may help Japan secure its interests. Japan’s presence is also in the interest of SAARC countries. They may take benefit from the technical advancement and economic development of Japan.

SAARC agreed upon admittance of Japan with status of Observer in 2005. However, Japan was admitted as observer in its 14th summit meeting in 2007. However, connections between Japan and SAARC had developed much earlier. In 1993, Japan established the SAARC Fund. According to Japan’s foreign ministry, at the time of its admittance, Japan’s priority areas of cooperation with SAARC included support for democratisation, peace building, promotion of regional cooperation and promotion of people to people contact. Later on infrastructure development, sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and disaster management, governance and climate change etc also appeared as areas of mutual interest.

The SAARC countries may engage Japan to resolve their territorial disputes, as Japan has no expansionist designs. Moreover, it enjoys cordial and warm relations with all SAARC member countries. Resolution of territorial disputes may further strengthen the association and bring stability in the region.

People’s News Monitoring Service

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