Thinkers from across South Asia discussed ways to further integrate the region by deepening economic cooperation in the tenth summit organised jointly by National Planning Commission (NPC), Ministry of Commerce, Government of Nepal and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) from November 14-16 in Kathmandu. The theme of the summit was ‘Deepening Economic Integration for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in South Asia”.
During a plenary session titled ‘Whither SAARC? The Future of Regional Cooperation in South Asia’, regional experts discussed ways to reinvigorate South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) so that the member countries can deal with poverty in a collective manner. Giving the keynote speech, Prof. Deepal Nayyar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the near absence of economic engagement has left SAARC fragmented.
Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance, National Assembly of Pakistan, said that intra-regional connectivity could also benefit from other regions such as China and Eastern Asia and cited the example of China-Pakistan economic corridor. Nazir Kabiri, Advisor to the Ministry of Finance, Government of Afghanistan, said that the extent of lack of cooperation among the countries that have such shared past is shameful.
Suraj Vaidya, President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that economic integration is not through trade but through investment and freer movement of people. Dr Bishwambher Pyakuryal, Ambassador of Nepal to Sri Lanka and Maldives, called attention to the rising sub-regional initiatives within the region. Dinesh Bhattarai, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal, said that geo-political issues have paralysed SAARC making it a victim of its own complexities. The reasons behind the lackluster performance of SAARC are security concerns. The South Asia Economic Summit was launched in 2008 as a platform to discuss and analyse development challenges facing South Asia.