Nepal committed to reviving SAARC: FM Gyawali

Kathmandu, June 3rd 2019

Amidst growing scepticism on the future of SAARC, fuelled by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to BIMSTEC leaders at his swearing-in ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali reiterated Nepal’s firm commitment to revive the older regional body.

Because of differences between India and Pakistan, the 19th Summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has not been held.

The 18th SAARC Summit was held in Kathmandu on 26-27 November 2014, while the 19th Summit was planned to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan, 15–19 November 2016. Following a terrorist attack near the town of Uri, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on September 2016, India announced to boycott the summit, alleging Pakistan’s involvement in the attack.

Ever since, the SAARC has been on coma, and statements coming from the Indian side suggest the country’s focus has now been shifted towards the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, in line with its ‘Act East’ policy.

The BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

Indian PM Modi invited BIMSTEC heads of state/government for his swearing-in ceremony for his second term, following his thumping victory in recently held general elections, indicating India’s shift in priority to BIMSTEC.

Minister Gyawali said Nepal did not compare any regional cooperation organisations, or promote one at the cost of the other.

“For us, both these organisations are equally important. SAARC is comparatively an older organization. If implemented, SAARC frameworks benefit around 1.8 billion people in the region,” Gyawali said at a media briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gyawali said SAARC could play an effective role for economic development of its member countries, and in addressing emerging issues like climate change, terrorism and cross-border crime.

Gyawali said Nepal’s efforts to revive SAARC were under way, adding that Nepal’s sole efforts were not enough in making SAARC a robust regional body.

“We hope that a time will come when misunderstandings and confusions surrounding SAARC will be cleared, giving rise to a new climate of cooperation,” he said. “We will constantly work towards making SAARC a meaningful body.”

He also added that Nepal was for making both BIMSTEC and SAARC, vibrant organisations that will play an instrumental role for the overall development of the regions, they represent.

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