Access to Bay of Bengal region is key, says Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali
In an interview to HT, Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said he doesn’t see Bimstec and Saarc as rival groupings.india Updated: Aug 30, 2018 07:22 IST
The host of the Bimstec summit, is also the current chair of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, and foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali doesn’t see the two groupings as “rival alternatives”. In an interview with Jayanth Jacob and Anil Giri, he spoke about various issues. Excerpts:
What are your realistic expectations from Bimstec, considering the regional grouping, which is two decades old, hasn’t taken off in terms of realising the objectives it set out to achieve?
Yes, 20 years is a long period for a regional cooperation initiative and we could have been more efficient and proactive. For Nepal, wider connectivity and access to the sea and markets of the Bay of Bengal countries are very important. Bimstec had identified 16 core areas to work on. I must say 16 areas make it vague and now we are focusing on six or seven issues such as connectivity and economic integration.
Connectivity is a broad concept.
Yes. It is physical and digital. Other areas such as customs facilitation are important, then (power) grid connectivity and so on. This region has huge potential for economic development, and integration and connectivity is a key instrument... But it is least integrated. For economic and regional integration, we need to accord top priority to connectivity.
Five of the seven Bimstec members are in South Asia, perhaps the world’s least integrated region. Saarc was for regional integration. Now some would see Bimstec as an instrument to bypass Saarc. Do you subscribe to this?
Nepal gives high importance to both processes. We don’t see them as rival alternatives. They are complementary to each other. Our aim is, and we are doing our best, to revitalise Saarc and make Bimstec more efficient. It is a matter of dismay that Saarc leaders haven’t met in two years. We, through formal and informal channels, diplomatic and other channels, are sending strong messages that Saarc should be re-activated and the aspirations of the people of South Asia met. We are the chair of both processes.
Do you sense that India-Pakistan rivalry has derailed Saarc process?
Yes. Sometimes we feel (so) and it is sensible. However, Nepal feels dialogue, negotiations...can mitigate differences. It is natural that countries may have difference on various issues. But humanity has devised various options to address them. It is not the best option to sideline regional cooperation (due to a) misunderstanding. But since Saarc is lagging behind, it doesn’t mean Bimstec will meet the same fate. We are trying for early organising (of the) Saarc (summit).
How far has Bimstec come in the area of anti-terror cooperation?
We are discussing this issue very seriously. Peace and security is an important aspect of Bimstec.
First Published: Aug 30, 2018 07:22 IST