There has been little cooperation among the South Asian states so far. Bilateral relations are strained and SAARC has a limited mandate. Attempts at bilateral, intra- and extra-regional arrangements - political, economic social, ecological and strategic - would merit more academic attention.
The founding of the South Asian Regional Cooperation (SAARC) by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives in 1985 was to create a forum for discussion rather than an instrument for regional integration. After more than a generation, Afghanistan joining and the creation of a dozen of SAARC institutions in the fields of common interest, SAARC is still discussing only common, non-bilateral and non-contentious issues, reflecting the fact that the region is home to two of the most dangerous conflicts in the world. There is no other regional cooperation where two members are nuclear powers, engaged in low intensity warfare and from time to time at the brink of a nuclear showdown, and where civil war and cross-border terrorism is raging. In pre-colonial and during colonial times the region, or at least a great part of it, had been under common rule. Neighbouring regions along the borders often have more in common than with the other regions of their own country. The member countries share natural resources, the most important is water. Kashmir, to quite an extent is a conflict over water and water power. As not much progress from SAARC is expected, member countries have been looking for other alliances within and outside of South Asia, especially with a view to Southwest and Central, but also to East and Southeast Asia. The panel is to look at the various economic, social, political, ecological and strategic aspects of cooperation among the states in South Asia.