KATHMANDU, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — Experts and parliamentarians from South Asian countries gathered on Thursday in Kathmandu to join a two-day regional conference on the effectiveness of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Addressing the conference, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal lamented over the slow pace of the SAARC.
“SAARC’s process has been very slow over the years. Several agreements have been made in the past and I would say it is a time for SAARC member states to go for implementation of those agreements,” the prime minister said.
The SAARC has not been able to make significant progress compared with other regional blocks around the world, he added.
Stressing the importance of enhanced connectivity and deeper economic integration for better peace, stability and prosperity in the region, Dahal said the SAARC member states should make collective efforts to overcome challenges such as poverty and underdevelopment.
“We may need to amend the charter of the SAARC to make it more active and vibrant in the near future,” he said adding that some structural reforms are necessary to revitalize the SAARC.
“We have to strengthen SAARC at the people-to-people and government-to-govern level to make it more effective,” Speaker of the Parliament Onsari Gharti told the conference.
Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is also the chairman of the conference organizing committee under the Foreign Affairs Committee, was of the view that the SAARC member states must find out the reasons behind the slow pace of SAARC over the years.
“The SAARC made several commitments in the past but it failed to turn them into action so far. Time has come to put those commitments into action,” said the former prime minister, who is also the head of Foreign Relations Department of the CPN (UML), the country’s main opposition party.
Delivering her remarks, former Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Sujata Koirala said that political leadership of SAARC member states must have a political will to overcome the burning challenges such as terrorism, poverty, backwardness, cyber security, food security and climate change.
Koirala was of the view that SAARC member states should have to work for enhancing connectivity so as to promote the people-to-people level contacts.
“It’s very unfortunate that the South Asia has remained one of the least integrated region in the world,” she said adding that the SAARC member states must go ahead for achieving economic prosperity leaving their differences and hostility aside.
During the two-day event, experts from SAARC member states including Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will hold deliberations on the effectiveness of the SAARC.
Nepal is hosting the conference at a time when the 19th SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad on Nov. 9-10 in Islamabad may be cancelled after four SAARC member states Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India expressed their inability to participate in.
The four countries stated that current regional environment is not conducive to the successful holding of the Summit.
As a current chair of the SAARC, Nepal on Wednesday, urged all member states of the SAARC to ensure the participation in the 19th SAARC Summit.
The SAARC is a regional block founded in 1985 in South Asia comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.