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SAARC PROCESS: Observers can play bigger roles as dialogue partners

The Himalayan Times, 11 December 2014 - SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa today said the recently concluded SAARC Summit in Kathmandu has opened new avenues for upgrading SAARC Observers to the status of Dialogue Partners.

“The Summit concluded with giving greater roles to Observers of SAARC process which is a pathway towards dialogue partnership,” Thapa said during an interaction held to discuss the achievement and challenges of 18th SAARC Summit which was held on November 26-27. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has nine Observers —Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the USA and the European Union. Some of the Observer countries, including China, have been seeking greater roles in SAARC process. The Kathmandu Declaration has called for engaging the Observers in ‘productive, demand-driven and objective project-based cooperation in priority areas as identified by the member states’. Secretary General Thapa also said four Observers, including the EU, were playing more active roles in SAARC process. He, however, did not mention the names of other three ‘active’ Observers. EU Ambassador to Nepal Rensje Teerink pointed out the necessity to review the provision of taking decisions only with consensus of all member states. She said such provision gives power to any member state to block the proposal, which rest of the members have agreed upon. Strengthening the SAARC Secretariat could be effective to address such issues, said Teerink. Speaking at the interaction, jointly organised by the United Nations Association of Nepal and the Centre for South Asia Studies, Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey acknowledged the challenges in implementation of the Summit decisions. He, however, stated that the deal on regional energy cooperation, understanding to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration as well as creation of employment opportunity for the youth in South Asia are noteworthy achievements of the Summit. Minister Pandey said Nepal, as the chair of the bloc, would perform needful roles to effectively implement the decisions of the recent Summit as well as previous Summits, regional programmes and projects. CSAS Director Nishchal N Pandey cautioned that there was a danger that the new provision in the Declaration to hold the Summit once in every two years could actually prolong it even further. Former state minister for foreign affairs and Congress lawmaker Prakash Sharan Mahat opined that SAARC can achieve its goals only if the member states focus on intense economic cooperation while keeping aside their political differences.


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