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‘Why can’t SAARC be like EU, Asean?’

world Updated: Dec 04, 2007 02:42 IST
Anirban Roy
Anirban Roy
Hindustan Times
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Changing the mindset of policy-makers is the need of the hour to accelerate South Asia’s progress as a major economic region, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan has said.

Pradhan, who is scheduled to attend the 29th Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers on December 7 and 8 at New Delhi, told the Hindustan Times on Monday it was unfortunate that differences between member nations had retarded the integration and progress of SAARC.

“A time has now come that we change our mindset and forget all our differences and forge…ahead,” the foreign minister said, stressing the need to resolve some of the contentious issues (including SAFTA) in a give-and-take manner.

Pradhan said it was unfortunate that the SAARC, in its 22-year history, failed to emerge strong in comparison to the European Union (EU) or even the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). “It is a shame for us (SAARC member nations) that we could not learn the lessons of integration from the EU or Asean,” she said.

“The dreams for a common currency for SAARC nations and visa-free movement can never be achieved if we don’t change our political thinking,” the foreign minister said, adding that immediate integration of the South Asian region was the need of the hour.

Calling for “more interaction” among policy-makers, Pradhan said during the 29th Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers in New Delhi, there would be interaction only for a day.

“When we have so many complicated issues on South Asia to discuss, interaction for a day is really too short a time,” the foreign minister said, adding, “And most of the issues are postponed for the next meeting”.

Pradhan also said a strong and integrated SAARC would have greater bargaining power with other nations. “As a small individual nation, Nepal does not have much bargaining power with larger nations across the globe,” she maintained.

The foreign minister said a stronger and integrated SAARC would help Nepal to bargain for better wages and working conditions for its citizens working in Gulf countries.

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