What are the major differences between the SAARC and the European Union as alternative centres of power?
European Union: The EU is the world's largest economy with a GDP of more than $12 trillion in 2005. Its currency, the Euro, can pose a threat to the dominance of the USA dollar. Its share of world trade is three times larger than that of the United States allowing it to be more assertive in trade disputes with the US and China. Its economic power gives it influence over its closest neighbours and Asia and Africa. It also functions as an important bloc in international economic organisation such as WTO. The EU has political and diplomatic influence. Member of the EU France holds a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The EU includes several non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. This has enabled the EU to influence US policies such as the current US position on Iran's nuclear programme. Its use of diplomacy, economic investments and negotiations rather than coercion and military force has been effective as in the case of its dialogue with China on human rights and environmental degradation.
SAARC: It stands for South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation. It was established in 1985 at Dhaka and its members are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Its objectives are
i. Promotion of collective self-reliance
ii. Acceleration of economic growth in the region
iii. Collaboration among member states on economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific front
iv. Promotion of mutual trusts and understanding
v. Stimulating regional co-operation
vi. Suppression of terrorism and smuggling of drugs
It is a major regional initiative by the South Asian states to evolve co-operation through multilateral means. It has an essential role to play as a forum for facilitating economic cooperation among the South Asian countries. SAARC members signed the South Asian Free Trade (SAHA) agreement which promised the formation of a free trade zone for the whole of South Asia.
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