At 30, Saarc has stunted growth

  • Charter Day
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
At 30, Saarc has stunted growth

Dec 7, 2014-

“Desirous of promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of the UN charter and non-alignment”, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation entered its 30th year of establishment on Sunday.

A day ahead of the Saarc Charter Day, according to the official website of the regional grouping, only Bhutan sent a congratulatory message to the secretariat. Nepal, which hosts the secretariat in its Capital, did not wish the South Asian bloc last year either. The Saarc Charter Day is an occasion for member states to renew their commitment to the vision.

“Learning lessons from the past and moving ahead in the spirit of partnership is the key mantra for Saarc’s best evolution,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey. Until next summit, it is Nepal’s duty to drive the Saarc process as its chair.

Referring to the not-so-cordial relations between the member states, officials say not much can be expected from Saarc until mutual suspicion becomes history.

Stating that it is a moment for the member states to reflect on their weaknesses and to work on the region’s commonalities and strengths to make inroads for shared prosperity as a successful union of friendly neighbours, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay said in his message for the 30th Saarc Charter Day. “As we commemorate three decades of South Asian regional cooperation, it is a fitting occasion for Saarc to celebrate the achievements made so far and to re-focus our resolve and commitments for building a strong, prosperous and cohesive South Asia.”

With the recent conclusion of the 18th Summit in Kathmandu, Saarc has no dearth of understandings and pacts but they have not been put into action due to the lack of commitments and resources.

Saarc General Secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa said although the pace of the South Asian counterpart does not match that of Asean or the EU, the decision to fully operationalise the Saarc Development Fund--social, economic and infrastructure--would aid regional development.

To achieve regional development, the member states had devised three windows to run projects under an “umbrella financial mechanism”. At present, only the social window, with the capital of $300 million, is in operation. The other two windows--economic and infrastructure--remain ineffective in the lack of funds.

“The relevance of Saarc is at stake,” said former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey. As the Saarc chair, Nepal could take initiatives to push substantive agendas for regional connectivity and integration, preparing ground for realising the ultimate goal of the South Asian Economic Union.

“Yes, we are shouldering the responsibility. We will take some steps within the limited capacities,” said Foreign Minister Pandey.

Published: 08-12-2014 09:45

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