Rajnath says SAARC’s full potential not utilised due to a single country

Union Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh addressing during BJP rally on CAA at Goldfinch City, Bangra Kuluru, in Mangaluru on January 27, 2020.   | Photo Credit: H.S. Manjunath

India was playing a lead role on connectivity in the South Asian region but the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was not utilised because of the behaviour of a single country, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, in a reference to Pakistan, on Tuesday.

“South Asia is at a critical juncture of history. We should not hold regional prosperity hostage to the interests of states who are obstructing all efforts aimed at regional cooperation. Our intra-regional trade has been abysmally low. We have to transcend these limitations,” Mr. Singh said at the12th South Asia Conference organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses on “India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy: Regional Perceptions.”

“All of you are aware how it [a neighbouring nation] stalled the SAARC motor vehicles agreement at the last Kathmandu session in 2015”, he said. SAARC could not hold a formal meet in the last four years due to the tensions between India and Pakistan.

India has committed about $13.14 billion in credit lines and about $4 billion in assistance in the neighbourhood over the last decade. The true pathway to regional peace and security lay in understanding each other's sensitivities and following the “basic principles of non-interference in each other's Internal affairs.”

Mr. Singh lashed out at Pakistan, saying that it had preferred to use terrorism as a state policy towards India, rather than peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue. “Use of terror as an instrument of its foreign and security policy has promoted radicalism and terrorism in the region”.

Mr. Singh said it was essential that terrorists and their ideological and financial network were cut off and that they did not receive state support. “With the exception of Pakistan, our region has adhered to these principles.” India was engaged in conversations with its neighbours with one exception, in order to develop a joint approach for regional peace and security. “It's important that we unite in our efforts to defeat terrorism,” he noted.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 9:05:54 AM |

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