Pak PM Congratulates SAARC Nations

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated all the member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) on Thursday on the occasion of 31st establishment anniversary of the bloc.
Prime Minister Sharif sent letters to the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, stating that Pakistan would continue to believe in the viability of the South Asian bloc. “We are convinced that only through adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect among member states, would we be able to guide SAARC to our cherished goal of a prosperous and developed South Asian region,” he said.
At the same time, the premier expressed serious concern over the deteriorating India-Pakistan relations and urged New Delhi to take necessary steps to normalise ties with Islamabad. According to Sharif, the future of the SAARC will depend on the Indo-Pak relations. He further said: “As its founding member, Pakistan stands steadfastly by the principles of the SAARC Charter. It was in manifestation of the same spirit that Pakistan had made all preparations for hosting the 19th SAARC Summit. However, the postponement of the Summit has deprived our people, once more, of the prospects of development, prosperity and regional co-operation.”
Prime Minister Sharif once again reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the objectives of the bloc, stressing that Pakistan would continue its journey, together with the SAARC, towards achieving “our shared objectives under its umbrella”.
As the regional bloc celebrated its 31st anniversary on Thursday, foreign policy experts raised an important question: Is SAARC still relevant? The question has been raised in the context of current India-Pakistan ties. This year, India boycotted the SAARC Summit in Pakistan over the issue of cross-border terrorism. Soon after India announced its decision, other member countries of the bloc, too, decided to skip the Summit, thus, prompting Pakistan to cancel the event. Experts believe that such a move would not be beneficial for SAARC member countries in the long run.
However, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar has a different view on this particular issue. He highlighted the “complex history” of the bloc and “emotionalism” of the region, saying: “SAARC is going through teething problems. And it is the complex history that made SAARC a non-starter since beginning.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, urged both India and Pakistan to co-operate with other member countries and allow the SAARC to emerge as a strong bloc. In his message to member countries on the occasion of the 31st establishment anniversary of the bloc, the Nepali PM said that SAARC should redouble its efforts in deepening co-operation. “Our Organisation needs to focus more on the delivery of concrete results through effective implementation of our commitments and decisions made so far. We must fulfil the aspirations of our people through the execution of results-oriented projects and programmes in a time-bound manner,” stressed Dahal.

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