SAARC meet will fail to deliver: Experts

Kathmandu, November 4:

Former Secretary General for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and former foreign ministers said no substantial achievement can be expected from the 13th Summit to be held in Dhaka next week.

“SAARC has not been a success, but holding the Summit itself would be a positive move for the region,” said Dr Ram Saran Mahat, a former foreign minister and a leader of Nepali Congress Party.

He said until SAARC focuses on core economic area beginning with implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, the organisation will have no meaning. While Dr Mahat said that no “double standard” should be adopted by the member-states while dealing with terrorism, all other speakers agreed that the 13th Summit should focus on agenda like fighting cross border terrorism and reviewing the SAARC Convention on Supression of Terrorism formulated in 1987.

“The Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, which was adopted during the 3rd SAARC Summit in 1987, is yet to be ratified by some of the members,” said Dr Badri Prasad Shrestha, a former foreign minister. Raising question on SAARC’s capability in the changed context, Dr Shrestha said, “It is high time to review the Convention to address the cross-border terrorism.”

He added that Nepal should make its position in issues like including Afghanistan within SAARC, the proposal which is likely to be brought during the upcoming 13th Summit.

“If Afghanistan to be included, why not China and Burma? This is an issue, Nepal should be prepared for,” he added.

Another former foreign minister Kamal Thapa said: “Nepal should clearly put its view with regional leaders that violence, murder and terror can’t be accepted no matter what motives behind that.”

Stating that there was an illusion among international community about Nepal’s commitment towards democracy and human rights, Thapa said, “The 13th Summit could be used to end those illusions.”

Dr Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, another former foreign minister said it was not essential to expect a lot from the upcoming 13th SAARC Summit. “There should be political stability for economic development and without economic development in the region SAARC wouldn’t yield any result,” added Sailendra Kumar Upadhaya, a former foreign minister.

Former SAARC Secretary General, Yadav Kant Silwal, expressed his dim hope from SAARC as bilateral relations among the member-states do not seem ‘so good’. “Terrorism is being made a slogan but looking into the ties between Bangladesh and India, India and Pakistan, and Nepal and India there is a least chance of yielding benefits from Dhaka Summit,” he said.