'Wait for SAARC results', Secy-Gen tells critics

‘Wait for SAARC results’, Secy-Gen tells critics

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The SAARC secretary-general has urged critics to wait to see the results of the South Asian regional grouping as he acknowledged that it “could not live up to its expectations”.
“We can’t expect results overnight. It’ll take a while to achieve the stated goals of SAARC,” Arjun Bahadur Thapa said on Sunday in Dhaka, 29 years after its launch.
He took questions at a press briefing after ending the second meeting of the cabinet secretaries of the member states with Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary Muhammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan at his side.He urged all not to compare the grouping with the ASEAN and the EU since “we have a brief history and our organisation is not that old like ASEAN and EU”.
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan are the members of the economic and political forum that started functioning from 1985.
But analysts say the association has no collective gains to show for.
Thapa said he understood there had been questions from “many quarters” about the “relevance” of SAARC.
“(Some say) SAARC is like a sleeping beauty, in order to give fresh life to this we need to do something,” he said.
“Of course, it has not lived up to its expectations for so many reasons. But I can’t agree it has not done anything.
“At least our leaders have been able to meet on a regular basis,” Thapa said.
“If our leaders periodically meet and talk about development, common problems of the region, then there is always a likelihood that we can perform better.”
Thapa, a former foreign secretary of Nepal, assumed his current role last month.
He said there had been a number of agreements regarding prevention on child prostitution, seed bank agreement, and agreement of food bank that had come into force.
“There have been agreements on suppression of terrorism,” he said. SAARC had introduced visa schemes for SAARC officials and businesspeople.
But he agreed that the much-talked-about connectivity, trade and poverty alleviation issues did not progress.
He, however, termed SAARC “wise” as the decisions were made based on consensus.
“The EU member states have surrendered their sovereignty to the EU. In our relations, our leaders felt that everything should be done on the basis of consensus,” he said to questions as to why SAARC could not succeed like the EU and the ASEAN.
“Every decision has to be taken on the basis of consensus. I think it was a very wise decision.
“It’s because the main goal of the relations is not to give rise to conflict and tension in this region,” he said.
SAARC states “need to do a lot in future with collective wisdom”, he, however, said and claimed a lot of interest from outside the region including the Commonwealth had been generated about the grouping.
He said currently there was a moratorium on taking any new observer as they outnumbered the members.
The eight-member grouping has nine observers, of them the Secretary General said Australia, Japan, China and Korea cooperated actively.
Officials say the two-day cabinet secretary-level meeting which was held five years after the first meeting in New Delhi would have significance in implementing any decision.
Bhuiyan said they had identified some areas that included use of ICT in improving service delivery, putting e-governance in place, collective measures for poverty alleviation, sharing best practices, infrastructure development through public-private partnership.
The best practices would be shared in the field of civil service reform, capacity building, improving service delivery, and performance management.
He said they decided to meet regularly from now on and the third meeting will be held next year in Pakistan and the fifth in Nepal in 2016.
Bhuiyan said Bangladesh would cooperate in the implementation of the just-concluded meeting’s decision.
The Maldives could not join the meeting due to their “internal financial crisis”, he informed the media.-bdnews24.com

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