Despite poor progress pertaining to burning issues, the SAARC Conferences can boast of indiscriminate use of hyperbolic expressions, generally, by all and sundry. The final declarations tend to be well-worded but bathetic. More often a wish list adorns such official communiqus instead of a course of action developed on the basis of a consensus. Such dramatic utterances with nothing to stand on undermine the status/ credibility of the organization. However all members appear reconciled to holding such exercises, perhaps, as a tribute to Don Quixote' adventures.  The biannual Conference of the SAARC chiefs of Police on cooperation held in Islamabad in mid-April this year was no exception. Putting paper over cracks in inter-state relations in the region, diplomatic homilies were, generally, used. The Secretary General SAARC, an officer of the Indian Foreign Service, sounded truly diplomatic. However, the others too, reportedly, kept up the faade as usual. Amid high-sounding statements etc on terrorism etc, the end-result looked a Whimper. Colombo hosted 15th SAARC summit on Aug 2-3 which again projected terrorism as the dominant agenda. Karzai started the blame-game which sidelined the real issue of cooperation. The final declaration called "Partnership for Growth of Our People" stressed the leaders' commitment to upgrading the "legal regime against terrorism" under the auspices of International conventions etc on the subject as well as the SAARC-specific protocols signed by all the members. All regional alliances tend to capitalize on shared interests of the members to promote collaboration for the realization of peaceful coexistence, upgradation of economic benefits and harmonious policy-making for facilitating fair social surge in the region. Such a mandate presupposes certain equality among members. The working-arrangements benefit greatly if there are no festering inter-state disputes. In   such an environment, a consensus on major issues can be worked out, generally, acting in good faith. SAARC appears to suffer from many handicaps. First, India has satellites like Bhutan, Sikkim as members while even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have serious problem-areas with her. Second, in such a setting India tends to be calling the shots all the time. The only member which can question such mode is Pakistan. Third, Indo-Pak relations are marred by the Kashmir dispute which casts a spell on most interaction. Fourth, the problem in Afghanistan draws different reactions in India and Pakistan. While the Karzai regime catches at any straw including Indian-support to keep US Administration in good humour, Pashtuns resent the same. India is trying to create a foothold in this country for fulfilling strategic designs of her own and the US. She also hopes to benefit from the   Central Asian trade ultimately. By such posturing it also tries to impress the US, now its principal ally in this area. Pakistan shares a border, unlike India, with Afghanistan. Historically it has remained a porous border like the one between US and Mexico. On both sides of the border, Pashtun tribes live. Though physically divided yet they share relationships, culture and religion. Such a disposition was exploited by the CIA in the 80' to bolster the war against the Soviet 'occupation' of Afghanistan. The local as well as foreign volunteers were smuggled conveniently in to the battle-zones with great consistency by US/Pakistani agencies. Now the wheel has come back a full circle. The Pashtuns, who form the biggest majority in Afghanistan, are, generally, up in arms against the 'occupation' of their country with the complicity of the warlords from the North. A surrogate regime under Pashtun Karzai is supposed to run the country but all reports indicate that its ambit is Kabul. While the South/East remains under the influence of the Taliban, the rest of the country is run like small fiefdoms by the accomplices of the Kabul-regime. To ingratiate the warlords, the foreign forces had to look the other way at the fantastic growth of opium in Afghanistan in the last 4 years. It was started by the greed of the Northerners and the South also started chipping in for its 'survival'. Even the Karzai Govt concedes that opium etc are earning the country about $ 4 Billion every year as the demand for the drugs remains high in US, Russia, EU etc. Taliban are reported to be getting a share out of such earnings by providing security to such operations in the Pashtun area. As such this makes their lifeline. As Pakistan has been suffering from acts of terrorism by the extremists, it had demanded that the border may be walled like in Berlin of Soviet days. This has implications which can only be overridden by the consideration for winning the 'war on terror'. However, finally this was not agreed to by the parties concerned. Now about 80,000 troops are trying to seal all movement across the border. The cost to the forces is high as the topography defeats operational capability of the troops. The progress of the 'war on terror' appears to be dismal except for its political utility. Too many reports indicate how the issue has been used to mislead public opinion, particularly in the US. Looking back one finds a far more peaceful Near-East/ South Asia immediately after the Taliban were bundled out of Kabul on the charge of complicity with OBL a la 9/11. Defying history for some reason, the US neo-cons preferred 'occupation' through a proxy-regime which has proved to be corrupt and unreliable over the last five years. The local resentment against the US has been growing steadily due to the terrible governance by its surrogates. As the economic situation keeps on deteriorating, particularly in the Pashtun areas, despondency appears to be the name of the game there. The indiscriminate bombing by foreign troops on the basis of 'intelligence received' appears to have helped the Taliban in a big way as their numbers swell despite the remonstrance by a 'beleaguered' Karzai.' Such killings in Pakistan are fast eroding US' goodwill among moderate majority which has obliged the elected Govt to take a tough stand on the issue. SAARC can do precious little while Kashmir is burning. It is time India heeded the attempt by Arundhatti Roy etc to smite her people' conscience. Branding the freedom struggle as 'insurgency' would only complicate the situation. The oppression launched by 'occupation forces' would incite more volunteers to join the Jihad from all over the Muslim world. Once Kashmir gets an equitable deal, SAARC would be able to function more harmoniously to realize its potential for quantum-jumps in human welfare including victory over Terrorism.   The writer is a former Secretary Interior E-mail imnor@brain.net.pk