​ SAARC at youthful age but dream of South Asia's prosperity still remains unmet

2017-12-08

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(To be disseminated on December 8) 

-Sharachchandra Bhandary 

Kathmandu, Dec 8 (RSS): The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was established with the goal of achieving prosperity of the South Asia and raising the living standard of the impoverished people of the region turns 33 years from today. 

The development of this region is taking place at a snail's pace as this regional group has failed to pick up the expected momentum as the bilateral issues among its member nations keep it hamstrung. As a result, a majority of the people of the region have not yet been freed from the vicious cycle of poverty. 

However, it is not that this eight-member regional grouping has not made efforts towards materializing the dreams of over two billion population of this region of a prosperous South Asia. Moreover, SAARC is endowed with immense natural and human resources required for achieving economic prosperity and physical development. 

In the last 32 years, SAARC not only brought the member countries closer in both good and bad times, it has carried out commendable job in terms of promotion of agriculture, investment, trade , transport, communications and relations. The 'retreat meetings' that are held by heads of state and governments on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit meetings have helped convert the misunderstandings and sourness among the member states into friendship. It is the SAARC member nations that have set the tradition of helping each other with emergency support at times of need such as during the earthquakes and tsunami. 

The SAARC is also making sincere efforts towards achieving the set goals as it focuses on economic and social sectors. Setting up of mechanisms for enhancing mutual cooperation like the SAARC Seed and Food Bank, SAARC visa and South Asian University could be considered some of the positive developments to that end. 

The ministerial level meetings are taking place and their decisions are under the implementation phase despite the delay in the convening of the SAARC Summit meeting. 

SAARC has been working in the fields of human resource development and tourism, agriculture and rural development, environment, natural disaster mitigation and biotechnology, finance, trade and commerce, information and communications technology, poverty alleviation, energy, transport, science and technology, education, culture and security. 

PM's message on SAARC Charter Day 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has extended warmest greetings and best wishes to the fellow citizens and Member States of the SAARC, on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the establishment of SAARC and the 33rd SAARC Charter Day today. 

Stating that December 8 is a historic day in South Asia marking the launching of regional cooperation under SAARC, he said the SAARC Charter was expressions of our collective will, common resolve and mutual pursuit to promote peace and stability, accelerate economic growth, as well as advance socio-cultural development in South Asia. 

In a message of best wishes on the occasion, PM Deuba has noted that over the years, much investment has been made in terms of time, resources and efforts to fulfill Charter objectives. 

"In view of our shared developmental needs, common challenges and multiple transnational threats, we need to redouble our collective efforts and resolve today much more than in the past," he added. 

Noting that there exist huge untapped potentials and immense complementarities in the region for progress and prosperity, Prime Minister Deuba said 'Our collective determination must, therefore, focus on result-oriented programs, projects and activities that will make positive impact on the welfare and the quality of life of our people.' 

Likewise, the Prime Minister stressed that the region's renewed efforts must also be reoriented towards deepening regional cooperation in realizing opportunities in trade, investment, tourism and other development potentials of the region. 

"It is important that all member States display much needed political will to advance the momentum of the SAARC process and also remain steadfast in the commitment to sustaining an ambience of a meaningful regional cooperation in line with the spirit of SAARC Charter," he reiterated. 

As the current Chair and founding member of the Association, Nepal remains committed to SAARC Charter and regional cooperation constitutes a core dimension of Nepal's foreign policy, he noted, adding that Nepal continued to play a constructive role in, provide full support to and work together with fellow members for making SAARC a relevant and vibrant organization for the people of South Asia. 

"May this Charter Day inspire us to foster mutual trust, understanding, cooperation and partnership as well as to promote deeper regional integration for peace and prosperity in south Asia," he wished on the occasion. 

SAARC Secretary-General's best wishes 

Likewise, SAARC Secretary General Amjad Hussain B. Sial, in his message to the people of SAARC countries on the same occasion, recalls the historic First Summit of South Asian countries at Dhaka in 1985 which launched the SAARC to promote the welfare of the people in the region to improve their quality of life through the accelerated cooperation in economic, social and cultural fields. 
"As enshrined in its Charter, the forum of eight countries in South Asia that are bound by ties of shared history and culture, SAARC is a tangible manifestation of the determination of its Member States to promote peace, stability, amity, and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity , national independence, non-use of force and non interference in the internal affairs of other States and peaceful settlement of disputes," the SAARC Secretary General added. 
He further added that though SAARC commenced its journey with limited areas of cooperation, its ambit of cooperation continued to expand over the years. 
Regional cooperation under the auspices of SAARC today covers areas such as poverty alleviation, economic and trade, agriculture, education, energy, culture, regional connectivity, infrastructure development, climate change, investment, finance, security, disaster risk reduction and management, fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, and promotion of people-to- people contacts and tourism among others, this is what SAARC Secretary General mentioned in the message. Additionally, SAARC's cooperation with regional and international organisations and its Observers is increasing. The SAARC Apex and Recognised Bodies are making useful contribution to the SAARC process. 
"Every successive Summit has injected renewed vigour and dynamism to the SAARC process. The 18th Kathmandu Summit devoted to the theme, "Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity, inter alia, committed the Member States "to deepen regional integration for peace, stability, and prosperity in South Asia" and to "achieve South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner," he stated in the message, expressing his confidence that the Member States would redouble their concerted efforts in the attainment of the Association's objectives. 
Indian PM's wishes 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed his felicitations to allow fellow citizens of SAARC Member States on the occasion f the 33rd SAARC Charter Day. 
He said ever since the inception of SAARC in 1985, its pursuit has been to build a better connected and integrated South Asia and to bring together the SAARC people through free flow of ideas, people, capital and trade. In his view, though SAARC has made considerable progress in these areas, much remains to be done. 
Stating that India has taken steps to realise the inclusive vision that he had outlined during the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, he said India's recent initiatives include the launch of the South Asia Satellite in May 2017, setting up an Interim Unit of the SAARC Disaster Management Centre, and the continued support to the South Asian University in making it a centre of excellence. 
According to the Indian Prime Minister, peace and security are essential prerequisites for realising the true potential of regional cooperation and development. It is necessary for the region's survival and progress that the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and the ecosystems of its support is eliminated. Only then the true potential of the region and the aspirations of the regions' people can be realised. 
He called up the SAARC nations to work tighter towards the objective to ensure peace and prosperity for the people of SAARC. 
Sri Lankan PM – best wishes 
Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime of Minister of Sri Lanka, in his message on the occasion of the 33rd SAARC Charter Day, said, "The South Asia nations formed the SAARC thirty years ago towards creating a greater sense of regional cooperation among the neighbouring nations; today, we have been able to cement strong bonds of friendship and cooperation while creating sustainable bilateral partnerships of mutual benefit". 
In view of the goodwill SAARC has generated over the years, the SAARC Charter Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the achievements, and to recommit ourselves towards consolidating a common vision for us all, he said in the message. 
Given that regular assessment of SAARC has encouraged us to ensure that the organisation stays focused on results while being people centric, we must be able to take initiative towards heralding in such change if and when needed, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said, adding that Sri Lanka would always be committed towards the common values embodied in the SAARC spirit of friendship. 
Bhutan expresses best wishes 
Likewise, in a message of best wishes on the occasion, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay observed: "In more than three decades now, SAARC has provided a meaningful forum for regular interaction and exchange in many prioritized areas of cooperation. The continuing engagements under the various socio-economic sectors promote understanding, friendship and cooperation amongst the relevant officials and stakeholders of the Member States." 

Stressing on the need for all the member states to enhance the role of SAARC in addressing the challenges facing the region and its peoples, the Bhutanese PM called on all member states to work together in realizing the shared vision and aspiration of the founding leaders to build a peaceful and prosperous region. 

The Bhutanese Premier has also reaffirmed his country's commitment to the ideals of the SAARC Charter, and to continue working closely with associated member states to realize the common noble goals and the full potential of the region.