It's too early to call SAARC unviable, says Bhutanese PM
June 17, 2019 12:31 PM NPT
By: Pratik Rana
KATHMANDU, June 17: Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering has said that it is too early to call the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) unviable.
In an interview with Hindu newspaper of India, Lotay said that it is too early to call off SAARC and say it isn’t relevant or viable.
"SAARC has a long history and emotionally connected to us all. I believe that we in South Asia need to develop as a region and we must work together. Geographically, we are grouped together but we aren’t doing well economically together," the prime minister was quoted by Hindu as saying.
Bhutan is one of the eight member states of the regional bloc SAARC that was founded in 1985.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister's remark comes at a time when the SAARC process is in limbo due to the hostile relationship between India and Pakistan over cross-border terrorism issues.
In his interview, Lotay has urged India and Pakistan to work together for the good of the entire SAARC region.
"We must open our hearts and march together without countering each other. If India and Pakistan don’t work together for this region, nothing can move ahead. So my prayers and wishes from our deeply spiritual country are for the leaders in the region to go ahead together," he observed.
Lotay's comment on SAARC follows the calls by Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Nepali Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli to revitalize the SAARC, which hasn’t a summit since 2014 due to the souring ties between India and Pakistan.
Lotay expressed his country's reservation over a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping proposed by India a couple of years ago.
He has shared that there is a serious rift between the ruling and opposition parties of Bhutan over passing the MVA deal through the Parliament.
"I can say or promise anything, but this is an issue where we may not be able to move forward quickly. The same party (DPT) that stopped the MVA going forward in the National Assembly with the previous government is also in Opposition now, and they are stronger this time, so they could stop it again," Lotay said.
He, however, said that Bhutan needs connectivity to enhance its economic growth. "Bhutan is the smallest country in this partnership, and we have a very high commitment to environmental conservation," he said maintaining "We are different from our neighbors in the choices we make, and signing on to BBIN for the economic benefits must be balanced with our desire to preserve our environment, tradition, and culture too."