SAARC leaders call for greater regional cooperation amid pandemic

SAARC  leaders have called for greater cooperation among its members to realize the full potential of a shared vision as it commemorated the 36th Charter Day of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) amid the global pandemic

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Dec 09, 2020
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SAARC  leaders have called for greater cooperation among its members to realize the full potential of a shared vision as it commemorated the 36th Charter Day of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) amid the global pandemic.

In their respective messages, India and Pakistan both made veiled references to each other for creating hurdles in realizing the broad goals in the South Asian region. 

In his message on the occasion, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the full potential of the SAARC can only be realized in an atmosphere “free of terrorism and violence”- an indirect reference to Pakistan which is responsible for cross border terrorism in India and Afghanistan. 

“On this 36th SAARC Charter Day, let us recommit ourselves to defeating the forces that support and nurture terrorism, and to work collectively towards a secure and prosperous South Asia,” said Modi. 

Modi, however, assured that India will continue to work closely with member nations for recovery in the post-COVID-19 time for an “integrated, connected, secure and prosperous South Asia.” He also added that India will support the economic, technological, cultural, and social development of the region. 

Pakistan Prime minister Imran Khan reminded the group that the time has come for the region to move forward with the spirit of cooperation that was instrumental in the formation of the SAARC. Khan also hoped the SAARC process would not allow artificial obstacles- an indirect reference to India- to hinder the progress of the grouping. 

Strained relationship between India and Pakistan has virtually stalled high-level engagements in SAARC. 

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said the enormous challenges presented by the global pandemic underline “the importance of more concerted efforts, collaboration, and cooperation among the member states of SAARC to collectively emerge from the pandemic.” he added concrete steps are needed to give a “fresh impetus to stalled SAARC process, including convening the summit” to foster an atmosphere of a “mutual trust” in the region. 

Bhutanese Foreign Minister Dr. Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said his counry will continue to work with member nations for the shared vision, and goals of the region. The foreign minister also thanked India and Bangladesh for their “support and assistance of medical and related supplies” that helped the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The SAARC member states can turn the current health crisis into an opportunity to create more equal, sustainable, and resilient societies in South Asia,” he added. 

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid tweeted, “As a founding member of SAARC, #Maldives remains committed to SAARC and will always strive to promote regional cooperation for the benefit of our people.” 

The 19th SAARC summit, which was to be held in Islamabad in 2016, had been canceled following India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives pulled out of the summit in the wake of a terrorist attack on an Indian military base in Uri, Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists. No summit of the group has taken place since then. 

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