Kathmandu, November 10:

Former minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat said today that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) could not progress at a desired level due to lack of unity of purpose among the seven member states.

He said that SAARC would remain as a retarded body as long as it does not make democracy and human rights its basic foundation for regional cooperation.

“Parleys on the sideline of the SAARC summit will also not yield any result in the absence of democracy and human rights among the member states,” the former minister said at a programme here.

Asked if the King’s visit to SAARC summit would help normalise relations between India and Nepal, Mahat expressed doubt and said that a democratic country like India would not reverse its stance and would at best remind the King about what transpired during Jakarta summit.

Spokeswoman of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, however, expressed sadness that summit of the regional body is often postponed citing natural disaster or political development of any member state.

She said that the 13th SAARC summit would discuss, among others, the issue of terrorism.

She said that talks between the King and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sideline of the summit definitely help bring about positive changes in Nepal.

Noted economist Dr Bishwambhar Pyakurel said that economic cooperation among the SAARC members has remained non-starter due to misunderstanding between India and Pakistan and slow progress on South Asia Free Trade Area.

He said that abundant water resources in Nepal and Pakistan and petroleum reserve in Bangladesh have remained unutilised as bilateral political issues dominated the summit.