Role of Smaller Members in the SAARC Forum

Padmaja Murthy, Associate Fellow, IDSA

 

Ever since the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the smaller member countries have looked at it as a forum from where their distinct identity and interests would be adequately reflected. The emphasis was on the former rather than the latter. This was more so in an environment where India dominated in geography, population, economic development, etc. and thus had an overpowering presence. India, on the other hand, felt that the association was a mechanism to "gang up" against it by the other smaller countries. However, we now presently witness a situation whereby the smaller SAARC countries are playing a crucial role in charting the course of the regional association, but this time in a constructive manner looking forward, not so much for a separate identity in the face of its big neighbour but in the process of deepening and strengthening the mechanisms of cooperation which would contribute in the economic development of their countries. This process, being witnessed for quite some time was strikingly reflected in the manner the smaller countries conducted themselves in the recently concluded tenth SAARC Summit held at Colombo.

Not only was there an impasse between the two big neighbours of SAARC, which, of course, was nothing new, but the difference this time was that through their actions these two countries had challenged the global nuclear order created by the West. The SAARC Summit was the first forum where the Prime Ministers of the two countries—India and Pakistan—were meeting after the nuclear tests were conducted. Global attention was focussed on SAARC and there must surely have been pressure from other countries on the smaller SAARC members to have the nuclear issue and its political fallout in the agenda of the summit. But this was not to be, and they were very clear that attention would not be diverted from developmental issues to those which need a larger debate.

This essay is an attempt to understand the change in the attitude of the smaller member countries of SAARC and examine some of the reasons for it—global, regional, domestic—which by juxtaposing themselves have created a situation for it.

Origin of SAARC

It is important to note that the idea of South Asian regional cooperation was first suggested by Bangladesh, one of the smaller countries, in 1977. Till 1981, when the first preparatory meeting was held, the region witnessed important events which influenced the views of the concerned countries towards regional cooperation. While India and Pakistan for different reasons expressed reservations over it, the smaller countries readily supported it. The Cold War had entered its second phase with the Soviet entry into Afghanistan and this was seen as having serious implications for South Asian security.1 India which was in a slightly tight spot with this move of the USSR, looked upon the idea for a regional forum with scepticism. Its thrust and timing were suggestive of some convergence between the US, on the one hand, and the South Asian initiative, on the other. Thus, apart from the noble desire to have the benefits of regional cooperation to solve the multifarious problems facing the region in the spirit of South-South cooperation, many other factors influenced events and attitudes of the concerned countries.2 Pakistan did not show much enthusiasm because it felt the forum would facilitate further domination by India.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan supported the Bangladesh proposal for regional cooperation.3 For them, the forum would provide a platform from where they could together extract a better deal with India regarding the bilateral differences which did not seem possible in a one to one dealing. They could bargain collectively with India with a view to securing concessions on various economic issues affecting each one of them. For example, with particular reference to Bangladesh, it is observed that it had internationalised the problem of the sharing of the Ganges water in 1976 to force India into a solution, but had been unsuccessful in doing so. It wanted to achieve the same through the regional forum by putting pressure at the regional level. The Bangladesh President, through such a proposal, also sought to improve his image within his country. For Bhutan, the association would be a mechanism through which it could expand its foreign relations with other countries without antagonising India and also expand its economic interaction with others to reduce the dependence on India.4 This has to be further seen in the background that while India had a democratic form of government, most of the South Asian countries were non-democratic and to legitimise their regimes they would resort to anti-India rhetoric. It is one of the dilemmas of South Asian politics that while India perceives neighbours as being integrated to its own security, the neighbours perceive India as a threat against which security is necessary. Thus, policies are evolved that prevent them getting closer to India and linkages are established with outsiders which in many cases serve as the vital element in consolidation of the political power of the elite and its support base.5 The SAARC Charter provides for "sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in internal affairs of other states and peaceful settlement of all disputes." These provisions were viewed as a guarantee against any pressure on the stability of the ruling regimes. As one writer has said with regard to Nepal, "The most ardent expectation of Nepal from the SAARC proposal was that it should be the most effective instrument for its security and its political role in the region."6

These aspirations were to a certain extent limited when India clearly stated that the forum should not discuss bilateral issues and, secondly, all decisions would be based on unanimity. Subsequently, these were clearly stated in the SAARC Charter. Thus, whenever bilateral issues were sought to be brought in the SAARC forum to put pressure on India, it held the stand that doing so would be violating the SAARC Charter.

It was in this atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion that the SAARC was proposed and formed after nearly four years of interactions at the various official levels. The association adopted what has been called the "functional approach" in which the areas identified for cooperation are the least controversial and minimal, excluding core areas like the economic aspects.7 Many were of the view that interaction at a symbolic level would create the atmosphere to go into deeper areas of cooperation in time.

In the period following the inauguration of SAARC, the member countries seemed to be more concerned with bilateral issues and differences, primarily with India, than with regional cooperation. Even the preparatory meetings preceding the inauguration of the association were affected by bilateral issues. On the eve of the third meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Thimpu, Bhutan, in 1985, Sri Lanka threatened to boycott in view of a comment made by an Indian Minister on the unrest between Sinhalese and Tamils. Sri Lanka treated this as an interference in internal affairs and did not want to join a club where a big member bullied the small. Colombo was eventually persuaded to join the meeting.8 But there seems to be an almost unanimous opinion among academicians that in spite of adopting a functional approach, the association was providing an important opportunity for regular contact among the members at various official levels, including the all important summit meetings where the bilateral issues were being discussed by the concerned parties unofficially on the sidelines, resulting in easing of tensions and continuity in dialogue.9 Thus, it is seen that regional cooperation is a highly political issue because it alters the pattern of behaviour of member states, entailing confidence building and cooperative security. It is estimated that on an average, every day throughout the year, one meeting of the SAARC member countries takes place in the region at different official levels and at the unofficial level involving non-governmental organisations (NGOs).10 SAARC signifies not just the summit meetings which get wide media coverage, but also the institutional framework which provides permanency and continuity .

Thus, in the absence of substantial cooperation, "silent cooperation" seems to have paid dividends in a region characterised by the proverbial "mistrust syndrome."11 The member countries soon began to emphasise on a regional approach to various issues like resource exploitation, environment protection and trade cooperation.

End of Cold War

The end of the Cold War by de-ideologising relations among nations, inaugurated a period whereby the economic agenda became of prime importance in states' interactions with each other. While old enemies were becoming new friends , long time friends had to redefine their relations in the context of the changed times. South Asia too, was influenced by this . Most important, this coincided with democracy being ushered in Nepal and Bangladesh, while in India, the days of one party dominance were coming to an end. Pluralism in politics came centre-stage in South Asia, providing an opportunity whereby new directions could be charted with new leaders at the helm of affairs.

Its clear reflection in the SAARC forum could be witnessed with the economic agenda coming to the forefront and becoming one of the focussed areas for cooperation. However, here too, a cautious approach was adopted. To begin with, it was in 1991 that the Committee for Economic Cooperation was set up. In 1993, the framework agreement for the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) was finalised and it came into operation in December 1995. In the first round, 226 items were identified by the member countries for granting preferential access, and in the second round, concessions were exchanged on around 2,000 items.12 The important aspect is the gradual change in the attitude of the member countries towards regional cooperation and though the quantitative benefits in terms of increase in intra-SAARC trade might not be much to talk about, the qualitative benefits with regard to conduct of inter-state relations is a noticeable feature. The members were clearly shifting away from a tendency to keep regional pressure on India on contentious bilateral issues. During the 1993 Dhaka Summit, there was domestic pressure on Bangladesh to take up the issue of the Ganges water at the SAARC forum , but the officials clearly stated that the issue being bilateral, could not be raised.13 However, unofficially the issue was discussed at the sidelines.

These countries were now clearly insisting on going ahead with the economic agenda . The academicians in these countries were also addressing this issue in all seriousness. This was also the period when all the South Asian countries were liberalising their economies and foreign direct investment was being invited in specific sectors. The environment in which SAARC was conducting itself had changed. Even on the domestic front, these countries having embarked on democracy, and people's expectations having risen, could not solely depend on the anti-India stand for being in power. At the regional level too, there was an improvement in the bilateral relations between India and its neighbours. The SAARC members also realised that they would have to take common positions in international forums to protect their interests, especially regarding trade, more so at a time when they were trying to increase and diversify their exports. New barriers in terms of human rights, environmental standards, labour standards and form of government were being imposed by the developed countries. Such challenges needed collective action by the developing countries. The habit of meeting regularly, upon the adoption of the functional approach, seemed to pay dividends. SAARC was also moving away from a state- centric approach to a people-to-people approach.14

The Gujral Doctrine15

While the end of the Cold War and ushering in of democracy in South Asia inaugurated a period whereby economic aspects dominated the relations and changed the context in which SAARC was operating, certain misgivings remained. These were sought to be removed through a set of five principles which came to be known after the Indian Foreign Minister who later became the Prime Minister—I.K.Gujral. The Gujral Doctrine, as it is known, came at a time when the smaller neighbours keen on transforming their economies were looking for a more active role from India. The Bangladesh Foreign Minister said in 1996, "The essence of foreign policy of the present government would be economic diplomacy."16 The Nepalese too talked in a similar tone, wanting to cooperate with India, especially on development of water resources, trade, transit and civil aviation.17

The doctrine specifically aims at building a close and special relationship with immediate smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives—so that the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset by these countries. Thus, India will not ask for reciprocity but give and accommodate whatever it can in good faith. Second, no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country in the region. Third, none should interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fourth, all South Asian countries must respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Finally, they should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral relations. According to Gujral, these five principles scrupulously adhered to will achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia's regional relationships.

A close look at these five principles shows that though all of them are not new and have been stated before, the novel element of the doctrine is the principle of non-reciprocity on India's part. Though India has behaved in this manner many a times, where it has not asked for reciprocity, it was now explicitly stating so. However, high sounding words to be convincing, should be accompanied with commensurate deeds, otherwise they sound hollow.

While negotiations were taking place with Bangladesh towards settlement of the Ganges water problem, there was an intense debate taking place in Bangladesh that the solution for the water issue was being traded for giving transit rights to India through Bangladesh to access the north-eastern parts of India. The Opposition was crying hoarse that the water for transit accord will not be acceptable to it. The Press during this time was bringing out the dangers of giving transit to India. It stressed the need to go into details of the whole proposal and asked the government to bring out the routes which India has asked for; what checks would be made; what guarantees India was giving that it will not violate the territorial integrity of Bangladesh in a situation where it is weak economically and militarily. Some sections of the Press in Bangladesh were of the opinion that India needed transit not for trade purposes but for strategic reasons to combat insurgency in the north-east and also tighten its grip on Bangladesh.18

When finally the water treaty was concluded, there was nothing on transit and on being asked, Gujral clearly said that there was "no secret clause" to the water accord and there had been no trade off of any kind between the two countries. On being asked specifically whether the issue of transit would be taken up, he said, "It is not on the agenda. It has not been discussed."19 On a different occasion, Gujral said that by conceding transit to be the sovereign right of Bangladesh , it was possible for India to fertilise the mind of that country about how to make the best use of transit facilities for its own economic and social development.20 Rightly so, the debate in Bangladesh has widened to it being part of the Asian Highway and the Integrated Transport System under SAARC.21 What seems to be couched in suspicion at the bilateral level seems to be acceptable at the multilateral level given the logic of economic development.

With respect to Nepal, the ground was already laid with the conclusion of the Mahakali River Treaty which when implemented will result in all round development of Nepal. Being a landlocked country, access to the sea and the issue of transit is vital for its trade with the outside world. Through agreements with India which are periodically renewed, Nepal has access to the Calcutta port. However, Nepal wanted another transit route to Bangladesh through India so that it could access the ports of Bangladesh too. The improvement in bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, on the one hand, and India and Nepal, on the other, facilitated granting of the route to Nepal on a trial basis in 1997, fulfilling one of its long held demands. Thus, India opened a transit corridor for Nepal to reach Bangladesh via Phulbari in India.22

The Nepal-India Trade Treaty, renewed in December 1996, is considered a landmark achievement for the economic development of Nepal and a milestone in the friendship between the two countries. According to a report in Nepal's Press, "The negotiations with India this time were unlike the previous ones which they used to face. India was virtually awarding anything Nepal demanded. Now it is Nepal's turn to take the challenge."23 According to the treaty, India had agreed to provide preferential access to all goods manufactured in Nepal (except three) free of customs duty and quantitative restrictions, regardless of the labour and material content.24

India and Sri Lanka are moving towards greater economic cooperation with India engaged in an exercise to unilaterally extend tariff concessions and remove import restrictions on many items of export interest to Sri Lanka. The bilateral investment protection agreement between the two countries is expected to give a fillip to cross border investments. India's stand that with regard to the conflict in Sri Lanka it wants to be helpful without being obstructive has been welcomed.25 The present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government in India has decided to accord a special trade status to Sri Lanka to boost bilateral economic relations even as both countries decided to form a working group to remove all bureaucratic bottlenecks.26

Close and friendly ties have always existed between India and Bhutan. Both are cooperating for mutual benefits in the hydro power sector—for example, the 336 MW Chukha hydro-electric project apart from providing a large area of eastern India with the much needed power, has become the largest source of revenue for Bhutan. The process is continuing with the much larger 1020 MW Tala hydro project. For Bhutan, the SAARC platform has facilitated greater opportunity for economic cooperation and widening of interaction with the other member countries of SAARC which would otherwise have not been possible.27 With Maldives too, the smallest member of SAARC, India has close interaction. India provides assistance in its developmental activity, particularly in the field of human resource development. A vocational training centre has also been completed and handed over to the Government of Maldives.28 For Maldives too, SAARC has facilitated greater interaction with the other members.

The Gujral Doctrine coupled with a change in the direction of the foreign policies of the smaller countries created a situation whereby the latter's interests were being satisfactorily addressed bilaterally without the need for them to "gang up" regionally in the SAARC forum and pressurise India. At the regional forum, this translates into concentrating on core areas of cooperation and the approach is businesslike.

It is important to note that the Gujral Doctrine has clear interests to serve India .The various regional problems have time and again inhibited India from playing the global role it has played in the past and which it sees itself rightly playing. In fact, many a times there is a deliberate attempt by the developed West to tie down India with regional issues for otherwise there is a challenge to their global position. The smooth bilateral relations help India to have one front at the diplomatic level properly taken care of.

Tenth SAARC Summit in Colombo

The tenth SAARC Summit was held under the glare of the world media, not out of interest for the SAARC and its activities, but because of the situation in South Asia following the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan. The maturity shown by the smaller countries not to include the nuclear tests in the agenda decisively brought out the constructive role the smaller countries have charted out for themselves. This attitude of the smaller countries came out even before the summit began when Sri Lanka clearly stated that the tenth summit would be an economic summit, discussing issues of intra-SAARC trade and more specifically the need for South Asian collective responses to the global economic challenges. This was the attitude of the other members too. However, Pakistan stated that peace and security issues had to be addressed, more so in the changed environment following the nuclear tests. But at the Foreign Ministers' meeting which preceded the summit, it was agreed that the nuclear tests and the political problems arising from them will not be discussed for otherwise the normal work of the association would be affected.

At the inaugural session the member countries did refer to the nuclear tests, though not directly but by using the phrase, "recent developments." In doing so, they maintained the fine balance between discussing the issue and ignoring it. However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan proposed, "a peace security and development initiative," which was nothing but another route to bring in bilateral problems into the forum and to seek third party mediation and conciliation.29

Pakistan's proposal did not find much support and the reasons for it are not difficult to assess. First, there was clear realisation among the members that the regional economic agenda can neither be sidetracked nor diluted. Second, the compulsions of the global economic environment had necessitated that through cooperation they adopt uniform positions at the global platform too. Third, they believed that bilateral problems can be satisfactorily addressed and solved among the concerned countries as they all had done with respect India and thus the SAARC forum should focus on regional issues. Fourth, the gains of a resilient SAARC institutional structure were being slowly felt by the members. Fifth, they did not want the activities of SAARC to remain hostage to Indo-Pak bilateral wrangling, though they accepted that it negatively affected the association. Regarding the bilateral differences, the Colombo SAARC Declaration spelt out the need for informal political consultations which would prove useful in evolving mutual trust and understanding and help the socio-economic development of the region. With regard to the nuclear issue, the Colombo Declaration does not refer to the nuclear tests conducted in the region, but calls for the need to look at the nuclear issue in the global context.30

Regarding the economic issues, the smaller countries welcomed the Indian proposal of considering bilateral free trade agreements with those countries which were interested in moving faster. The SAARC Declaration calls for the need to accelerate the third round of SAPTA negotiations, extension of tariff concessions to products actively traded, removal of non-tariff barriers on items traded, drafting steps to move towards a free trade area, coordination of SAARC positions before the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and encouragement of sub-regional cooperation, thus, clearly expressing the interests of the smaller member countries.31

The summit proceedings clearly brought out that SAARC had succeeded in maintaining the primacy of the economic agenda despite political problems that may exist among the member countries. For, while at the bilateral level the dialogue may come to a deadlock, at the regional level, the discussions continue because the other member countries want conclusive results and forward movement.

It needs to be specifically taken note of that had the smaller countries wanted , they could have discussed the nuclear tests in the region for it is not a bilateral issue which concerns just India or Pakistan but has regional and global ramifications. In doing so, these members would not have violated the SAARC Charter. They did not do so as they felt that such an issue needed to be discussed on a broader platform. Had the issue been discussed, it would have opened another front for India to tackle diplomatically and worse, India would have been isolated in the SAARC forum. That it did not happen has been looked at by India with great relief . The reasons for it lie to a great extent in the success of the Gujral Doctrine and the normalisation of relations among India and her smaller neighbours.

Looking Ahead

For quite some time, the smaller member countries have highlighted the need for meaningful regional cooperation and in this respect they have come out with bold initiatives too. Thus, the behaviour of these members at the Tenth SAARC Summit need not be considered as an aberration but as a continuation of that approach. At the Ninth Male Summit, Bangladesh had proposed a three-nation business summit between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh which was held in January 1998. Though not held under the SAARC auspices, it was symbolic of the aspirations of the members.32

Similarly, Nepal and Bangladesh have called for sub-regional cooperation within the provisions of the SAARC Charter involving Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the north-eastern region of India. They have taken pains to explain its logic and urgency so that Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan do not consider it to be against the SAARC spirit. Nepal has proposed development of inland waterways to get access to sea ports in India and Bangladesh. Similarly cooperation in road transport and hydro-power resources is also proposed.33 Bangladesh has stressed that sub-regional cooperation involving the four countries concerned will help in evolving solutions to the developmental needs of that particular area. If the consensus of all the seven countries is always required, then crisis situations will increase and it may be a long time before the necessary attention would be given. For example, water management, environment protection, tourism and port development in the particular area require coordination among the four countries concerned. Further, these members have brought out that sub-regional grouping is not contrary to the SAARC Charter.34

If all this is any indication for the future , then the association will see a more active role by these members.

Conclusion: The Three Phases

The changing attitude of the smaller SAARC member countries towards the regional association can thus be seen in three phases. In the first phase, the aim of the smaller members was basically to put regional pressure on India on issues both political and economic which at a bilateral level in the opinion of the former failed to get satisfactorily addressed . Lack of trust and faith led to the members adopting a functional approach to cooperation. Though such an approach did not address the "core" areas, it did succeed in establishing an elaborate institutional structure which ensured both permanency and continuity in regional cooperation in the face of grave bilateral differences. The second phase began with the end of the Cold War and ushering in of democracy in South Asia which qualitatively changed the very environment in which SAARC—the regional association—was operating. Anti-India rhetoric alone could not secure continuation of democratic governments and performance was a vital criterion. The dividends of adopting the functional approach were felt and the members moved towards "core" areas of cooperation with the agreement over SAPTA. This led to a series of other proposals like free trade area, joint projects, etc. Regional cooperation was also moving away from a state-centric approach to a people-to-people approach. The economies in all the member counties were also being liberalised. But bilateral differences with India still persisted. The third phase can be said to have begun with the Gujral Doctrine being enunciated by India, which primarily speaks of the principles under which bilateral relations between India and the smaller neighbours will be conducted. The trust and faith generated at the bilateral level got translated at the regional level and the SAARC forum is no longer a platform where the smaller countries need to "gang up", against India. The way the proceedings of the Tenth SAARC Summit at Colombo were conducted amply proved this. The third phase should continue so long as the bilateral relations between India and the smaller neighbours do not develop any major irritants and India remains conscious of the special role it needs to play for the all round development of the region and for SAARC. In doing so, India would also pave the way for playing the global role it has charted for itself.

Normalisation of relations and close cooperation and friendship is not a point in time but is a process which has to be consciously maintained. While old problems get sorted out, new ones arise and they too need to be addressed in a spirit of accommodation.35 Decisions agreed upon need to be sincerely implemented as the legacy of mistrust is longer than that of cooperation. Most important, while building trust is a long arduous task, the downward journey is slippery and indeed easy.

 

NOTES

1. S.D. Muni, "Confidence Building Exercise," World Focus, vol. 10, no. 1, January 1989, p. 3.

2. Ibid., p. 3-6.

3. Anuradha Muni, "Sri Lanka, Nepal: Extending Full Support," World Focus, vol. 10, no. 1, January 1989, p. 17.

4. For a detailed study, see dissertation of Rajesh S. Kharat, "Role of Bhutan in SAARC," Centre for South, Central, South-East Asian, South-West Pacific Studies, JNU, New Delhi, 1989.

5. For a detailed view, see Nilufar Choudhary, "Regional Approach to Security of Non-Aligned States: The Case of South Asia," BISS Journal, vol. 9, no. 2, July 1998, p. 243-258.

6. Narayan Khadka, "South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation: A Nepalese Perspective," The Round Table, no. 309, 1989, p. 65-87.

7. Iftekharuzzaman, "The SAARC in Progress: Achievements, Old Problems, New Dimensions," Regional Studies, vol. 6, no. 1, Winter 1987-88, p. 12.

8. Iftekharuzzaman, "Bilateral Impediments to SAARC: The Indo-Sri Lanka Crisis Over IPKF Withdrawal," BISS Journal, vol. 10, no. 3, July 1989, p. 253.

9. Abha Dixit, "SAARC: Towards Greater Cooperation," Strategic Analysis, vol. 10, no. 4, July 1997, p. 561-583. Also see Mohammad Iqbal, "SAARC: Problems and Prospects," Regional Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, Winter 1992-93, p. 46.

10. Iftekhar Zaman, "Nothing Official About It," Himal South Asia, vol. 10, no. 3, May/June 97.

11. Iftekharuzzaman, n. 8, p. 19.

12. Padmaja Murthy, "From SAPTA to SAFTA: Need for Caution," National Herald, May 14, 1997.

13. For detailed views, see POT (Public Opinion Trends Analyses and News Service) Bangladesh Series, vol. 18, no. 90, April 19, 1993, p. 744-45.

14. See SAARC in Brief, (Kathmandu: SAARC Secretariat), p. 30-35.

15. For details on Indian Foreign Policy and the Gujral Doctrine, refer I.K. Gujral, "A Foreign Policy for India," External Publicity Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 1998.

16. Azad, "Economic Diplomacy as Basis of Foreign Policy," POT-Bangladesh Series, vol. 21, no. 145, July 4, 1996, p. 631.

17. "Comments: Foreign Policy Perceptions of Nepal," POT-Nepal Series, vol. 2, no. 31, June 4, 1996, p. 337.

18. For varied views, see POT, Bangladesh Series, vol. 21, no. 250 to vol. 21, no. 272.

19. For details see POT, Bangladesh Series, vol. 21, no. 272, December 23, 1996, pp. 1163-64.

20. Gujral, n. 15, p. 74.

21. "Comments: Politics with Asian Highway Project," POT-Bangladesh Series, vol. 21, no. 249, November 22, 1996, p. 1069.

22. Padmaja Murthy, "SAARC-SCOPE," National Herald, January 7, 1998.

23. For views, see POT-Nepal Series, vol. 2, no. 107, December 27, 1996, p. 873.

24. See, for main features of the Indo-Nepal Trade Treaty, POT-Nepal Series, vol. 2, no. 104, December 20, 1996, p. 849-50.

25. Gujral, n. 15, p. 172-73.

26. "Sri Lanka Gets Trade Status," The Tribune, September 11, 1998.

27. Gujral, n. 15, p. 247.

28. Ibid., p. 249.

29. For a detail analysis, see K.K. Katyal, "Any Escape from the Stalemate," The Hindu, August 3, 1998.

30. The Hindu, August 1, 1998.

31. Ibid.

32. Padmaja Murthy, "SAARC-SCOPE," National Herald, January 21, 1998.

33. Sangeeta Thapliyal, "Sub-Regional Cooperation: A Nepalese Perspective for Development," Strategic Analysis, vol. 20, no. 1, April 1997, p. 163-166.

34. Q.A.M. Rahim, "Sub-Regional Cooperation in Eastern South Asia," Pakistan Horizon, vol. 50, no. 3, July 97, p. 25-30.

35. For instance, the issue of illegal migration, unless addressed with care, has all the potential for flaring up emotions as seen in the recent events in India and Bangladesh.