Diplomats stress need to infuse new life into SAARC

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, July 15:

As the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) completes two decades, the issue of of injecting new life into the institution is being raised to achieve the goals set by its founders. “Within SAARC, there has been little progress even in intra-regional trade, which is barely five per cent as compared to EU’s 62 per cent,” said KV Rajan, former diplomat who has served as Indian envoy to Nepal. He said so while presenting a paper in a regional conference on ‘New Life Within SAARC’ organised by the Institute of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Saying there have been occasional summits that have resulted in high sounding commitments and declared successful, he said, “If no explanation is demanded of governments as to why these commitments were not fulfilled, it is probably because they “To inject new life into SAARC, it would be good to remind ourselves of the GEP (Eminent Persons Group set up by the Male Summit of 1997) recommendations submitted to the tenth Summit in Colombo.”

Foreign Secretary Madhu Raman Acharya stressed on making SAARC’s third decade the

“decade of implementation”. He added, “South Asia is the fastest growing region, and SAARC has made great strides. But it is yet to attract those outside the region. And for that, its renewal is necessary.” Acha-rya also pointed out “Nepal has taken the initiative to introduce transit economy by offering her land to be used as the transit route for Sino-Indian trade.”

Presenting a paper on terrorism in South Asia, Dr Mohan Lohani said South Asia was facing the problem of terrorism on a much larger scale with ominous implications for regional peace and stability.

“The Convention (SAARC Convention on Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism signed

in Kathmandu in 1987) can become an effective mechanism to combat terrorism, provided there is a strong political will to implement it,” he said. Highlighting the importance of South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) treaty as a “quantum leap” in the SAARC process, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, CM Shafi Sami, said, “It is crucially important to recognise that in order to achieve SAFTA’s desired impact, efforts need to be redoubled to ensure the inadequacies in SAFTA are addressed.”