Remarks by Hon’ble Sujata Koirala, Nepali Congress leader and former deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal at the Regional Conference on SAARC Effectiveness on September 29, 2016 in Kathmandu.
Mr. President ,
Hon’ble Ministers of the Government of Nepal
Ladies and Gentlemen
Namaste and a Very Good Morning!!!
On behalf of the organising committee, my party Nepali Congress, as well as on my own behalf, I feel it a great honour and pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to you all at this very important conference on regional cooperation.
I sincerely take this opportunity to express my earnest gratitude and appreciation to all our distinguished dignitaries for taking time to travel to Kathmandu. I express my sincere appreciation to Nepali political leaders, scholars, government officials, and members of media, civil society, and other distinguished participants. Your presence here is an encouraging commitment towards the process of regional cooperation. Your presence epitomizes feelings and concerns for SAARC’s future. I am confident that these commitments and concerns will go a long way to translate those feelings into actions.
South Asia is a region of extraordinary economic potentials. As a seat of ancient civilization, the region has huge social and cultural diversity. This diversity needs to be strengthened by promoting people to people contacts. World Bank Reports project South Asia as the fastest growing region in the world with economic growth projected to move from 7.1% in 2016 to 7.3% in 2017. India remains at the center of this progress. Given these potentials, SAARC can indeed become a launching pad for economic prosperity.
Projections are that two thirds of the world population will live in Asia by 2025 and South Asia is likely to be the most populous region in not too distant future. This also happens to be young region. It needs key infrastructural initiatives without delay if we want to give hopeful future for the people of South Asia.
We need a strong connectivity amongst the people of the region. Our focus needs to be on building a dense networks of connectivity, energy, environment, economic cooperation, people-to-people contacts across South Asia and beyond. It is unfortunate to note that South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions in the world amidst the abundance of opportunities.
It is encouraging to note that South Asia is growing more democratic even amidst mountains of formidable challenges and hostile environment. This bright spot of democracy needs to be protected and promoted. This can only be done if we work together and put our faith in the power and promise of the rule of law, peaceful dialogue and negotiation to find a solution to irreconcilable differences and discontents.
We live in an age of increasing interdependence and interconnectedness. This is an interactive world. Our destinies are intertwined. We are confronted with challenges that are truly global in nature. Growing inequality, financial stability, corruption, cyber security, jihadist terrorism, proliferation of arms and climate change stand and stare at us as the biggest diplomatic challenges. These challenges are further compounded by geopolitical rivalries, human rights violation, pervasive poverty, and growing threats of religious fundamentalism. We need to work closely and in a coordinated manner. We must show our political will to work together for common good, and expand opportunities to combat our common enemy- the poverty. We must come together to effectively counter and defeat the forces of disorder including the forces of terrorism, violent extremism and religious fundamentalism.
As the global power shifts to the East from the West, the geographical location of SAARC member states makes the region of high geostrategic importance for global peace, security and stability. Given its location, the process of Easternization puts the South Asian region in the high attention of global community. We need to work together to make SAARC more relevant to the life of common people, rather than merely keeping it as a ‘talking shop’ for diplomats and elites of the region.
Although, SAARC has already completed three decades and, over the period of time, it is yet to make its imprint in the region and beyond. There is much more to do. The vision of the SAARC envisaged through its Charter and commitment expressed by the successive Summits needs sincerity and collective efforts for their implementation in a real sense of the term. Despite the immense potentials, SAARC process appears to be slowing. The latest developments have damaged the trust and devastated the confidence in SAARC.
It is by working together that we can keep region free from the forces of disorder and discontents. This calls for a very hard work and true political will to translate promise into action and uphold faith in the future of SAARC. I, believe, SAARC, today, faces two major challenges – internal and external. The internal challenges come from the promises and commitments made by the member states and gaps in their subsequent implementation. External challenges, for their part, stem from the changing global political, economic, and social environment.
Personally, I feel very much encouraged with the presence of such an august gathering of eminent persons from across the region. Whether we do it now or later, it will be upon us to create a conducive environment for SAARC to grow and be able to contribute to peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region and beyond. It is my sincere hope that this conference in Kathmandu will come out with inputs, insights and visions to provide a way to move forward, and make SAARC more relevant to the daily life of the common people.
Last but not the least; I also take this opportunity to congratulate the International Relations and Labour Committee of Legislature –Parliament of Nepal for taking initiative to host such an important event in Nepal.
I, once again, extend my very personal warm welcome to all of you and wish you a very pleasant stay in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Namaste and Thank you.