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Opinion

Saarc can realize his full potential only in an atmosphere free of terror: PM Modi

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In a veiled reference to terror emanating from Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) can only be realized in an atmosphere free of terrorism and violence.

Modi, however, underscored India’s commitment to working with other countries in the region for post-Covid-19 recovery in a message marking the 36th day of Saarc’s charter.

The operation and activities of the eight-nation grouping have virtually stalled due to tense relations between India and Pakistan. Apart from a virtual meeting in March on the Covid-19 situation, Saarc has not had any significant engagement since India withdrew from the 2016 summit in Pakistan following the Uri terror attack.

Modi said in his message: “Saarc’s full potential can only be realized in an atmosphere free of terror and violence. On this 36th Saarc Charter Day, let us re-commit ourselves to defeating the forces that support and fuel terrorism, and to work collectively for a safe and prosperous South Asia. ”

India, he said, “will continue to work with other countries in the region to ensure a strong recovery after the pandemic.” India is also committed to an “integrated, connected, secure and prosperous South Asia,” and will support the economic, technological, cultural and social development of the region, he added.

“Early coordination between the Saarc countries to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic is an example of the benefit that our region can derive from greater collaboration,” he said, referring to the meeting held in March and the creation of a Covid -19 emergency. fund with an initial contribution of $ 10 million from India.

Saarc leaders had participated in the virtual meeting at Modi’s initiative. However, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan skipped the meeting and the country was represented by its de facto health minister, who generated controversy by raising the Kashmir issue.

The day of the charter marks the signing of the Saarc Charter in 1985 by the leaders of the member countries at the first summit of the grouping in Dhaka. The group now includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

In a separate message on the occasion, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said that the Saarc Charter reflects the shared vision of the region, collective determination and mutual pursuit to promote peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia through the eradication of poverty, accelerated economic growth and advancement in socio-cultural development ”.

Oli described the pandemic as an “unprecedented challenge affecting not only health and the economy, but also social life and livelihoods in the region and beyond” and said it had exacerbated existing challenges, such as poverty, terrorism, transnational crime and climate change.

“Today more regional cooperation is needed than ever. To collectively emerge from the pandemic, the situation underscores the importance of more concerted efforts, collaboration and cooperation among the Saarc member states, ”he said.

Oli also called for the stagnant Saarc Summit to be held. “The longer we delay, the higher the opportunity cost. Giving new impetus to the stalled Saarc process, including through early convening of the summit, can rekindle hope among our people and provide ground to move forward, “he said.

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