Interact more with others, but on own terms, India urges Saarc


Thimphu: India has said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) should engage with more countries and inter-governmental organisations, but only based on mutually agreed and assessed development needs of the region.

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“As we explore consensus to deepen and broaden the association’s global engagement, we must not lose sight of the fundamental principles of such cooperation, which should continue to be based on mutual self-respect of each others’ identity,” Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in Bhutan’s capital in her opening remarks at the Saarc standing committee meeting.

“Such engagements need to be rooted in Saarc’s Charter and its objectives and priorities, and be based on concrete assessed regional developmental needs in mutually agreed areas,” she said, making her observations on a report of the SAARC secretary general on interaction with observers and inter-governmental organisations.

SAARC has accorded observer status to nine countries and multinational bodies – Australia, China, Myanmar, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, South Korea and the US.

Rao said that if the SAARC agreement on trade in services is ratified early, it will boost inter-regional trade.

“India has already submitted its sector-specific request list of services to various members and we hope that the ‘request-offer process’ can soon gather pace at the meeting of the Expert Group scheduled for the end of March 2011,” she said.

She also hoped that the appointment of the first director general of the Saarc Arbitration Council will contribute to facilitating the trading environment in the region.

Speaking on the issue of the South Asian University, Rao also urged all Saarc members to “quickly nominate” a member each to the Governing Board, so that its first meeting can be held.

“We also call upon remaining member states to ratify the agreement on the establishment of the SAU at the earliest,” she said.